|On Saturday, May 20, members of the Shorecrest Preparatory School centennial Class of 2023 received their diplomas in the Janet Root Theatre. Among the graduating class were 10 students recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corp. including two who received National Merit College-Sponsored Scholarships, 5 NCAA committed student-athletes, and Thespians acknowledged by the Broadway Star of the Future Awards! Nine Chargers were recognized as STEAM Scholars and 3 as Global Scholars. Collectively the Class of 2023 had an average GPA of 3.9.|
The Commencement ceremony began with a welcome from Head of School Nancy Spencer.
"Every member of this class is wearing a centennial class medallion along with their cap and gown. The Class of 2023 proudly leads Shorecrest into our 2nd century of creating lifelong learners who value personal and academic excellence, creative achievement, physical well being, and a commitment to social responsibility. ... Each member of the Class of 2023 has defined what it means to be a successful Shorecrest student. ... Looking ahead we know your future achievements will continue to reflect the vast talents of this diverse group. As Shorecrest Alumni we are confident you will represent your school well as you travel in the world beyond First Street."
Next the audience heard from Salutatorian and STEAM Scholar Sean Sheikoleslam '23. He gave his class the following advice:
"As we say farewell to this chapter of our lives, I encourage each and every one of you to embrace the future with open hearts and open minds. The journey ahead may be challenging, but we are well-equipped to face it head-on. So let us move forward with confidence and enthusiasm, knowing that we have the knowledge, skills, and support to achieve anything we set our minds to. Because those who say they can, and those who say they can not, are both right."
Sean introduced the senior members of the Upper School Vocal Ensemble who performed the Shorecrest Alma Mater.
As a PK-12 independent school, students may spend their entire childhood at Shorecrest. Erich Schneider, Head of Upper School, recognized the 24 students from the Class of 2023 who were Shorecrest “Lifers,” having been students at Shorecrest for 12 years or more. They were awarded a longevity medal and recognized during Commencement.
Taylor Hicks '23 was voted by her peers to give a student reflection. She commented on her first impression of the school.
"In seventh grade, I walked into the Middle School building with my green polo and khaki skirt, not knowing what the next 6 years would look like. The first thing I did notice, though, was that everyone else’s skirts were so much shorter than mine. I ran home to my mom frantically expressing the need to go to the tailor. Besides that, I fit right in. The girls I sat with on the first day of seventh grade would be the same girls that I had my last Shorecrest lunch with as a graduating senior.
"I’m not sure I am in the position to give advice, but if I could humbly say one thing, it would be to look for the things you love about Shorecrest but in your new adventures. Find your new professors’ favorite sayings. Find your new administrative office, or the place where you can share your voice. And, most importantly, find the places where you can find free food (thank you Dean Alexander). But, in all seriousness, those are the little things I love about this place."
The seniors voted on an adult member of the Shorecrest Community to share some words of wisdom. They selected Dr. Patti Bullock, Upper School Math Teacher, who poked a little fun at their classroom habits before getting serious.
"Perhaps the most important thing I have learned from these beautiful beings is that being vulnerable and authentic with them helps them be vulnerable and authentic with me. That they can have a safe space to be themselves is crucial. That they can joke with and at each other, and also fiercely love and rally around each other.
"Finally, my brief advice. Speak truth to power... Extend grace often. Dream big. Make mistakes, but learn from them. Be humble. Be kind to yourself and others. Be vulnerable and be authentic. And as always, remember - you are beautiful, you are appreciated, and you are loved."
Enzo Pagano '23 was next to address the crowd. After 10 years as a student at Shorecrest he had many funny memories from the past to share. He wrapped up, though, with a look towards the future:
"As Mark Twain once said, the two most important days of your life are 'the day you are born and the day you find out why,' and with a class as remarkable as this I couldn’t be more excited to see the day that my fellow graduates find out why."
As is tradition from the first Shorecrest graduating class, one student was named Outstanding Senior. This honored graduate is asked to return in ten years to speak at Commencement. Head of Upper School, Erich Schneider, named Rose Leary the Outstanding Senior of the Class of 2023. The following Monday, Rose came back to campus to have a photo taken with the second graders - and let them know she would be speaking at their Shorecrest graduation in 2033.
Ann Marie Hardy, Upper School Dean of Student Life, introduced Jeremy Reiskind '13, the Outstanding Senior of the Class of 2013 who returned to give a Commencement Address.
Jeremy was a Lifer, was crowned Shorecrest's Mr. Spirit (as was his uncle before him), was a Legacy who graduated exactly 30 years after his mother's Shorecrest Commencement, and is grandchild of a former Shorecrest Board Member. He could often be found on Haskell Field or in the Crisp Gym with a green and gold wig leading the student section in cheers and chants. Jeremy attended Rice University and majored in sports management with minors in both business and Jewish studies. There he received the Lindsay Roemmich Sport Management Achievement Award. He attended Ohio University's Sports Administration MBA/MSA dual program, ranked #1 in the world. He is currently a business development manager in Winston-Salem, NC, for a company that does sponsorship sales in high school athletics.
Jeremy spoke to the centennial class about not freezing up when faced with decision making, and instead working to make their decision the right one. He highlighted some of his favorite Shorecrest teachers along the way. He also took a Ron-Heller-style selfie with the group on stage, acknowledging the long-tenured History Teacher's retirement.
Dylan Winer then came forward to deliver the Valedictory Address.
"As we look back on our years at Shorecrest we are reminded of the many special memories we have created together. Along the way we have achieved many milestones, cementing ourselves as an incredibly accomplished centennial class. We succeeded in challenging courses like US History and Calculus, participated in 10,500 hours of community service with organizations like Keep Pinellas Beautiful to benefit our community, thrived in specialized programs like GSI and STEAM, and took on leadership roles across numerous clubs and sports. We have formed lifelong friendships and created lasting memories, all despite a worldwide pandemic."
"As we move forward, let us take the lessons we have learned and apply them to the beginning of our adult lives. Let us also never forget the Shorecrest community, which has prepared us to work hard in forging a better future for ourselves and others. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, 'Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.'"
Ms. Spencer awarded diplomas along with Chair of the Board of Trustees and Shorecrest parent, Will Conroy, while Kara Earle Daley '05, President of the Shorecrest Alumni Association, presented Alumni pins to each graduate. Legacy students are also an important component of community-building here at Shorecrest. The connections for this class are strengthened with more members having relatives who were faculty/staff members or have served on the Shorecrest Board of Trustees. These family members were invited to come on stage and hug their graduate immediately after receiving their diploma.
At Shorecrest, diplomas are not presented alphabetically, rather the seniors are called at random. The final member of the class to receive a diploma was Jack Heritage '23, who then donned the golden mortarboard, a sign of good luck for the coming year.
The ceremony concluded with remarks from Rose Leary '23 the Outstanding Senior and President of Student Council, which may be read here.
Best wishes to the newest Chargers Alumni, the Class of 2023!