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Growing up and going places

Published Sep. 28, 2005

In 1988, Trent Van Allen, Bret Biance, Megan Algeo, Nicole Diehm, Michael Himmel and Glenn Wilson were in the first grade at Inverness Primary School with few, if any, thoughts about their high school graduations.

At 6 years old, the end of high school seemed an eternity away.

Now in 11th grade, and members of the Citrus High School Class of 2000, these students will graduate in 1{ years. And that fact is weighing heavily on their minds.

The Citrus Times has been following the progress of these students annually since they were in the first grade, adding Tiffany McMichael to the group in 1992. In the early years, the children's parents contributed to the stories. Now the students speak for themselves.

At 16 and 17, most of them are driving, and some have jobs to balance with their studies.

Glenn stocks dairy products at Winn-Dixie; Michael bags groceries at Publix. Tiffany works at Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q, and Bret clears tables at Stumpknockers. Trent buses tables at Coach's Pub and Eatery and, while Megan does some babysitting during the school year, her main work is as a lifeguard at Whispering Pines Park pool during the summer. Nicole has no job.

Driving has provided a real taste of independence for them. "It's given you more freedom," said Michael, who has a car. "I'm free to do things _ within the law."

Nicole has a car, too. "I can just go when I want to go," she said. "It's not like I have to wait for somebody to take me."

Tiffany, Trent and Bret have cars as well and use them, they said, for the usual things, such as traveling to and from school or work, or to see friends. Driving has not been a priority for Megan.

They all declared they are doing well in school. Glenn, who is in the ninth grade because he repeated an elementary grade and seventh grade, says he is doing "good." Nicole says she is "doing fine" and Michael said, "I make good grades."

Tiffany says she is doing "great" and Trent is "doing good." He says he watches Science With Biance, referring to Bret's dad's science TV show, and says, "It makes me smart."

Bret's schoolwork, he said, is "very good" and Megan said, "I'm doing really well."

With college looming, the students have updated their hopes for schools and careers. For years, Glenn had hoped to be a professional athlete, particularly in baseball. Now he says he wants to leave Florida after he graduates and attend the University of North Carolina, but he has no specific career plans.

In the past, Michael has mentioned careers in sales, baseball, and sports medicine. Now he says, "I don't know what I want to be." He does know where he wants to go to school, though. "I'm going to the University of Florida," he said. "I'm going to try, at least."

Michael isn't the only one who has become less certain about the future. Last year, Nicole was considering becoming a dermatologist and before that she wanted to go into marine biology. This year she says she doesn't know where she wants to go to school or what she wants to do.

Tiffany doesn't have concrete career plans, either. She has toyed with the ideas of teaching and nursing, but this year she is more interested in photography or business. "I love word processing," she said.

For years, Megan has been interested in physical or speech therapy. That has changed. "I want to go into business or I want to go into photography. I'm not sure," she said. "I'm kind of thinking about being a buyer for, like, a department store or a shoe company. I'm big into shoes."

She has also thought about becoming a lawyer but said, "I don't know if I want to be in school this long." College, she said, will be wherever she is accepted.

Trent and Bret are a little bit more set in their plans. They are both interested in medicine.

"I think I want to go to UF maybe and become some kind of doctor," said Trent. He likes the idea, he says, of making a lot of money and might go into "sports medicine or something like that."

Bret expects to go to a Florida school for "the tuition possibilities," he said. He would like to go to the University of Florida or the University of South Florida because of their medical schools. He is not sure what kind of doctor he would like to be but does plan on being a surgeon.

Because they will soon be entering the adult world with all of its problems, they commented on concerns they have or don't have with the world at large. Nicole says nothing bothers her, but Tiffany, who is African-American, is concerned "that people can't get over the past." The example she gave is racism. "People still live in the past," she said.

Trent's biggest concern is personal. "Mostly," he said, "I'm really concerned about getting good grades in school."

Bret said, "If it doesn't involve me, I'm not worried about it. If it's going to bother me and my future, I'm totally against it." He is, though, worried about this country, he said.

Megan's concerns are more specific. She worries about "psycho children killing their parents or parents abusing their children and children that gun down other children at school."

Mostly the students are focused on school. Their junior year is busy, but, Bret said, "nothing's really changed in 11th grade."

And because they are so busy the time has passed quickly. "This year seemed to go by fast," Megan said.