Saturday, January 20, 2018
Education

Some Pinellas County graduations will call for extra caffeine

ST. PETERSBURG — When Janet Harris told friends at church the time of her twins' graduation ceremony, she emphasized the hour, thinking people could easily show up 12 hours late.

It's at 7:30. In the morning.

"Yikes," Harris said was her first thought when she heard the news.

Of the 19 commencements taking place at traditional and alternative high schools across Pinellas County this week, some schools will have graduates wearing their robes and grabbing their diplomas at an hour when some people are still eating breakfast.

Among the early birds: Boca Ciega High at 7:30 a.m. and Countryside High at 8 a.m.

"We will be the early risers," said Randy Shuman, a basketball coach who is among graduation organizers at Boca Ciega High.

Some parents have inquired about the early morning start. Boca Ciega High principal Michael Vigue said the time is worth it because it allowed his school to get a spot on the schedule at Tropicana Field, where seven other schools will host their graduations this year. He'd rather be there, no matter the hour.

"That is by far the best venue," he said.

Among the perks: air conditioning and unlimited parking.

"And seating," Shuman added. "You have unlimited seating."

Robin Conyers, of St. Petersburg, said about 50 loved ones will watch her 18-year-old son, Denzel Conyers, graduate from Boca Ciega on Friday. But the 47-year-old mom said there are some drawbacks: Some of their closest loved ones won't attend because they can't take time off work, and those who have small children will have a tougher time getting ready so early.

"It's kind of challenging for some people," she said. "Two hours can make a big difference in how smooth your morning goes."

But for Harris, a literacy coach at Boca Ciega and mother of 18-year-old twins Indica and Andreas, the time doesn't matter.

"If they told us it was 5 a.m., we were going to be there," she said. "I really doubt that the time frame bothered most people because we're all just so ecstatic about the graduation itself."

Shuman said the students aren't fazed by the time.

"It's just a regular school day. We're up about that time anyway," he said, adding that they'll have the rest of the day to celebrate.

The majority of the county's public high school graduations take place between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday of this week. At Countryside High, records manager Pat Korcak said the school staff was "relieved" to hear the school's ceremony was scheduled for 8 a.m. at Bright House Field because they'll beat the afternoon sun.

Karen Fisher, mom of Countryside salutatorian Allison Fisher, agreed, adding that Florida's summer thunderstorms could hamper an outdoor evening ceremony. "It's not very conducive."

For $20 per person, Bright House Field is offering viewing rooms and continental breakfast to graduation spectators

Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727) 893-8713 or [email protected]

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