Many graduating from St. Petersburg Catholic High have been together since kindergarten.
They were the 44th class to graduate from St. Petersburg Catholic High School. Marching down the aisle of St. Jude's Cathedral wearing the school's colors, boys in black gowns and girls in gold, the class of 2000 brought smiles to the faces of gratified family members and friends.
This year, Bishop Robert Lynch handed diplomas to 127 seniors, more than last year's 101 graduates and fewer than the 155 seniors anticipated at next year's commencement.
"It's a little bit of a bittersweet memory," the bishop said. He reminded the graduates to remember, "Friends never really say goodbye."
"Today will be one of the hardest things we'll ever have to do, even though we've spent our whole lives waiting for this day," said valedictorian Kali Stern. "We are being tapped on the shoulder for a very special thing. SPC has prepared us."
"It's one of the most pivotal and significant turning points in our lives," said salutatorian Brendan Prendergast.
Father Lou Molinelli, principal of St. Petersburg Catholic High School, addressed onlookers and graduates with "the deepest sense of pride and love I have ever felt in a class of seniors."
The commencement was the final event marking the students' completion of school. A farewell Mass was held Thursday and a formal address was presented at the church Saturday.
"The students in this group are close friends," Molinelli said. "A lot of them were together since kindergarten, so this is really a farewell for them."