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Tiny class, tight bonds for graduates

Though only 13 diplomas would be given, more than 150 people came Sunday for West Hernando Christian School commencement.

The crowd filled the fellowship hall of Northcliffe Baptist Church to cheer the graduates dressed in maroon caps and gowns.

With such a small class, graduating senior Steven Cullari said bonds between classmates are much tighter.

"You know everybody as a person," said Cullari, 18, who plans to attend Pasco Hernando Community College in the fall and eventually pursue a career in broadcast journalism. "At a public school you can blend into the crowd."

A short video of the senior class members, including childhood photos, gave testament to just how personal the school is.

For class salutatorian Peter Zooberg, the finality of the commencement was difficult to grasp.

"This probably won't hit me until Monday when I get to sleep in," said Zooberg, who has attended West Hernando since it opened four years ago and plans to go to the University of Florida's business college in fall.

In the church vestibule, school principal Cheryl Kenyon-McCluskey took a break from greeting parents and friends to straighten Zooberg's gold honors cords.

In 1997, the school's first graduating class had only four graduates. This year, there are 13 graduates, who range in age from 17-19.

With such a small graduating class, Kenyon-McCluskey said the students and teachers become very close knit. Recently, she spent 24 hours with the class on a trip to Disney World's Grad Night.

"As a principal, I know every student and their family," she said. "It's very difficult to see them go," said Kenyon-McCluskey, who will leave her position as principal after this year to take a teaching position near the east coast of Florida.

"These are some of the babies I've had for a while," said Kenyon-McCluskey, who taught many of the graduating seniors when she was a science teacher. "It's hard, but we have to let them go."

Darlene Franchi said her 17-year-old daughter, Jennifer, is lucky to be graduating from the small, private school.

"The kids here get real personal attention," she said. The administrators know them all by name. This was a wonderful start for her."

Class of 2000

James Alexander Chisholm _ Valedictorian

Steven Anthony Cullari

Jennifer Marie Franchi

Scott Everett Griffin

Katie Lee Holliday

Charles Walter Kalck Jr.

Tiffany Lynn Kalb

Steven Joseph Kelly

Jason Michael McClune

Aaron Layne Rutledge

Aimee Lynn Sikes

Kiara Denice Trufant

Peter Francis Zooberg _ Salutatorian