ZEPHYRHILLS — First came the text messages. Then, the late-night Walmart run.
Come Friday morning, dozens of Zephyrhills High School seniors arrived at school in togas.
"We figured since it's our last Friday of our high school years, we decided to dress up like Greek gods and goddesses," said Kiera Perkins, 17, as she headed to the football field for the annual Orange and Black game.
On Monday, she said, the seniors plan to dress in beach clothes.
"We're having a great time," Perkins said.
Talk to members of the Class of 2010, and you'll hear that refrain over and over: They like to have fun together.
They're the loudest class, winning every pep rally and spirit stick. They go over the top for homecoming floats. They make their presence known.
"We go all out for everything," said senior class president Elizabeth Patrias, 18.
Just ask Ben Williams. Not content to wear just a toga, Williams, 18, also spray painted his body in gold to get in the spirit of the day.
He ended up going home to shower it off after getting warnings that the paint might be harmful to his skin. But he returned for the Orange and Black game, with flecks of paint still stuck to his arms and legs.
Williams said his time at Zephyrhills High, after transferring in from Pasco High, made him a better person.
"Coming here really helped me a lot to focus and to figure out what I want to do with my life," said Williams, who plans to study business at the University of South Florida.
Patrias, who has been her class' president since sophomore year, attributed students' ability to get ahead to their closeness. The thing that defined the senior class was "our unity and how much we got involved," said Patrias, who plans to study accounting at USF.
"A lot of us have been going to school together since kindergarten," said class valedictorian Brandy Compton, 17, who heads to the University of Florida for pre-med studies in the fall.
They look toward graduation with a mix of sadness and excitement.
Compton has already begun Skyping and texting with her future UF roommate, for instance. But she has a tinge of sadness that she won't see her younger brother grow up while she's away.
"We'll all have nerves when we enter as freshmen again," said Perkins, who intends to spend the next two years at Pasco-Hernando Community College.
But that change offers new opportunities, said Josh Geiger, 18, as he watched the football game from the bleachers for the first time in years.
He's accustomed to being on the field, and looks forward to playing for Tennessee State next year.
"I can't wait. It can't come fast enough," Geiger said. "Living in Zephyrhills is like a small town. I want to make myself somewhere else."
Before the seniors leave, though, they want to make sure their presence comes through loud and clear. They're still working on a senior prank — something "clean" that won't land anyone in trouble. And they're still creating traditions even on their way out the door.
Lacey Cook, 17, persuaded principal Steve Van Gorden to let the seniors decorate the tops of their graduation caps this year, something that's been banned in the past. Nothing can dangle off. Beach balls and air horns are still forbidden.
But if the kids want to send one last message, now they can. Cook plans to write "GW here I come" on hers, referring to her plan to play softball for George Washington University.
"My sister went to Pasco and they do that," Cook said. "I kept telling him I want to do that. He said no, and then he said yes."
Van Gorden figured there was no harm in the move and, besides, the seniors deserve a little leeway, he said, calling the group "very impressive."
Zephyrhills High graduation is set for 6 p.m. June 4 at the Lakeland Civic Center.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.