NEW PORT RICHEY — The procession lasted just two minutes.
At Genesis Preparatory School on Thursday night, the 13 graduates filtered in wearing blue and gold. They were serenaded by the Genesis Ringers, the private international school's handbell choir.
Their attire was the same, but each student was part of a cultural melting pot.
They came from Vietnam. China. Angola. Some were from the United States.
Inside the dimly lit gymnasium, some walked briskly, high heels clicking against the gleaming gym floor, eager to get to the next stage of their lives.
Others walked slowly, savoring the moment. They waved at family members, some who traveled thousands of miles to see their children graduate from a school far away in a place called America.
A senior video provided a glimpse into the students' pasts. Baby pictures. Family trips. School dances.
They came from different countries, but in the end, the seven foreign students and six American students at Genesis learned a lot from each other.
Some came to the school unaware of American culture, confused about the black and orange balloons that decorated homes on Halloween, or the Santa Claus blowups perched in front yards on Christmas.
Over the years, the students learned about each others' cultures, said Kathleen Aedo, assistant principal. Above all, Aedo said, they were kids who loved the same things: Student Council dances, music and going on dates.
One language, Aedo said, brought the students together.
"I'd walk into the lunchroom, and there'd be Vietnamese, German and Nepalese kids all speaking English," Aedo said. "That's the common thread. That's the moment where I went, 'Wow. Out of all things, English unites them.'"
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.