DADE CITY — Judy Camarillo came to Pasco High's senior yearbook release party Friday armed with a tiny digital camera and a Sharpie.
A girl has to collect memories, doesn't she?
"It means a lot to me," Camarillo said as she waited for the debut of the Class of 2009 video and the distribution of the yearbooks. "It's my last year. I probably won't see half the people later on."
The mood in Pasco High's activity center was a mix of anxiety and excitement, as the senior class of nearly 250 gathered to kick off two weeks of events that will culminate with their graduation May 29.
"I'm basically just suffering anticipation," Marcus Gullen said as friends began to flip through the yearbooks in search of pictures of themselves and their buddies. "I'm so excited it's killing me."
Carl Kennedy admitted to also being "scared to death" as he nears the end of high school.
"It's just right here at the end," said Kennedy, who will enter the Coast Guard after graduation. "It's kind of like you're really starting your life."
He carefully thumbed through the yearbook, reflecting on the past year, when his friend Jamie Stout approached requesting his signature.
"I've known him since preschool, so this is a big deal for us," Stout said as she grabbed friend Danielle Berry's book and began writing a note.
What do seniors write in the yearbooks of people they've known for four or more years, but won't see again for years?
"It depends on the person," Berry explained. "If it's a good friend, you write something special. If not, you write something generic."
Like "great knowing you." Or "good luck."
"I always write something nice and unique," said Jazmin Garduno, who plans to study nursing. "Then I say, 'Remember you can do anything you want, so long as you put your heart and mind into it.' "
That message resonated for many in the room, who have plans to go to college, get jobs or join the military.
"Pasco High has really given us a great foundation for our future," said senior class president Ashley Gibson, who will head to Florida Southern University in the fall.
The activity turned many in the room nostalgic as they laughed over the pictures and the memories they evoked.
"It's funny at the end how much more you seem to like high school than when you started," said Shannon Robin, who plans to study political science at the University of Florida.
That's where the yearbooks come in.
"I pull all of them out every year," Berry said, while she waited for Stout to finish signing. "I just look at them and look at what people wrote."
Hopefully, she said, they weren't too generic.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.