Thunder and the nervous chatter of a crowd edging toward shelter from threatening skies drowned out most of the program as 334 seniors graduated from St. Petersburg High School Thursday night. But the emotions that come with graduations made the weather seem insignificant.
"It didn't bother me at all," Luticia Brown said, standing on a lonely stretch of the track at Stewart Field after the ceremony, searching through the crowd and the spraying rain for members of her family. "We could hear most of the speeches," Ms. Brown, 18, said.
Despite the weather, as each graduate was called to receive a diploma an enthusiastic cluster erupted with applause and cheers.
Twice the students' jubilation and the strong wind practically put the white mortarboards into orbit _ once after principal William Grey passed out the diplomas, and again after William Packer's farewell address. One student virtually had to sprint to the end of the field to retrieve his mortarboard.
Parents and other visitors at the ceremony appreciated the program's length and the fact that it was student-driven. Class president Ryan Estevez led the crowd in the pledge to the flag and delivered the welcome address. The three valedictorians, Christa Roberts, Kira Sherer and Ivan Lee, made the commencement addresses, and Packer, a summa cum laude graduate, said the farewells.
The graduates formed a wave of white caps and gowns when they swayed and sang the school's alma mater.
_ ELIJAH GOSIER