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Graduates march out in style

With camera flashes, hugs and newly printed diplomas, the Citrus public schools congratulated more than 600 high school graduates in commencement ceremonies this week. While each ceremony included the traditional march to Pomp and Circumstance, the changing of tassels and the triumphant toss of caps into the air, the speakers and special touches gave each graduation a special flavor.

The week's first graduation was at Citrus High School on Monday. A few seniors wearing sunglasses grabbed a microphone and serenaded their classmates _ until school administrators took away the microphone.

Soon after, girls in gold and boys in black caps and gowns slowly marched two-by-two into the stadium to a symphony of shouting family members and purring video cameras.

"May the richness of your blessing be on our children who stand before you at this milestone in their lives," the Rev. Sanford Colley prayed at the start of the ceremonies. "And may this night always be precious."

Soon the top students of Citrus High School's Class of 1991 filed to the podium in the waning sunlight to deliver their messages and goodbyes to classmates.

Salutatorian Karensa Butler drummed up audience participation by repeating phrases in her speech.

She stressed the importance of learning to do what has to be done when it has to be done "whether you like it or not," and the graduates soon began repeating that catch phrase as she spoke.

Co-valedictorian Michael Albritton said he felt like "an insignificant fish in the aquarium of Citrus High School" as a freshman. He also noted that it did not help that his mother was "the infamous Mrs. Albritton," a math teacher at the school.

"I know now, after looking back on my four years of high school, that it was the caring of the people around me which gave me the inspiration for my success and the enjoyment of that success," he said.

For Citrus High's other co-valedictorian, Heather Purdin, the address included plenty of props and her own version of the "three R's."

For Miss Purdin, those R's represented Raggedy Ann, her running shoes and rainbows _ all of which she pulled from behind the podium.

"Class of 1991, give life your best shot," she told the students. "But don't ever forget to stop and notice the rainbows along the way."

Later, the students turned their tassels and filled the air with a few caps and fluorescent silly string.

On Tuesday night, Lecanto graduates in green, gold or white caps and gowns marched across the stage in their stadium to receive their diplomas, hugs and congratulations from school officials.

While backstage they sported such irreverent attire as buttons that said, "I can see through your clothes" and Mickey Mouse ears outfitted with a tassel, they seemed more reserved when the time came to march into public view.

"Now we're going to have to move into the real world," Lecanto salutatorian Charles Snipes told his classmates. "It is now that we must realize that our time for immaturity is over."

Valedictorian Brian Smith, who received a standing ovation from his class, shoved his tassel out of his eyes before talking about the need for commitment.

"As high school graduates, we are receiving a huge responsibility," he said. "Soon, the world will be turned over to us to run. It's a scary thought. . . . We're wondering if we're worthy."

Several minutes later, the featured commencement speaker answered that question by telling the students that they were worthy.

Attitude coach Ray Pelletier, who spoke to the students at the beginning of the school year and gave the Class of 1991 its "better-than-terrific" slogan, thanked parents and teachers.

Then, with a mobile microphone, he stepped down from the stage and urged the students to work hard to earn their success and to teach others what they learned.

He also encouraged the students to forgive their parents for whatever they had done wrong. "No matter what it takes tonight," he said, "for those special people in your life. . .you give them a hug and a kiss."

Lecanto principal Gary Foltz, completing his first year at the school, spent a few minutes reviewing his students' academic and athletic accomplishments and then presented the graduates to Superintendent Carl Austin and handed out diplomas.

Austin told the students he had heard much about their accomplishments.

"The community is certainly aware of the achievements of our young people and we all share the pride with you," Austin said.

At the Crystal River High School commencement on Wednesday night, Austin repeated a similar statement, butthe weather nearly stole the show.

Storm clouds blew over the stadium shortly after the graduates took their places. But it was not until the students were leaving more than an hour later that the rain began.

Co-salutatorians Lannie Hough and Melissa Reed spoke about the past and the future respectively, while valedictorian Philip Schilling likened high school to climbing a great mountain.

The Crystal River commencement also included the presentation of the class gift of a large, carved pirate statue to principal Craig Marlett and the addition of former Citrus elementary school coordinator Creola Willis to the school's "Wall of Fame."

"The pirate represents the spirit and the friendships we've had all through our four years of high school," class president Anne-Mary Pullar told the group. "The Class of '91 will always share the special bond which will keep us in one another's hearts forever."

The students at Crystal River also saluted their parents with a standing ovation.

The students, called to the stage by their homeroom teachers, filed one-by-one to get their diploma. From one section of the student seating area, a small-but-constant stream of soap bubbles blew toward the audience.

The week's final graduation ceremony was Thursday night at the Curtis Peterson Auditorium in Lecanto. Forty-seven students of the Withlacoochee Vocational and Adult Educational Center received their GED (general equivalency diploma) and another 20 received their adult high school diplomas.