Baccalaureate 2018

by: Raffi Darrow, Ebytes Editor
Seventy-three seniors, their families and friends gathered in the Janet Root Theatre for Baccalaureate on Saturday, May 19, 2018. Eight students spoke, reflecting on their Shorecrest experiences.

Student Council Vice President Will McLoughlin students, faculty, staff and guests. He later joined the group of 32 students who received Longevity awards for being students at Shorecrest for at least 12 years. Mr. Dillow, Head of Upper School, and Mr. Schneider, Senior Class Sponsor, joined Mr. Murphy for the traditional presentation.

Next to address the crowd was graduate Melanie Friedman, who tore her bedroom apart the week before graduation trying to find a letter she wrote to herself during summer camp with Mrs. Leavengood before fifth grade, which she sealed and vowed to open on the day of her graduation. "But I hesitated," she told the crowd. "I had a thought. What did I hope this letter would say? What did I want to tell myself, to tell the other people on this stage? And it came to me: I hoped the letter would tell me to remember not only the big moments of my time at Shorecrest, but also the little moments that are often taken for granted. ... like that time in first grade when someone dared Will to eat a handful of dirt, to which he responded 'I don’t need to be dared!' and shoved it in his mouth. ...We can’t forget freshman year, either, when everyone failed that one geometry test in Mr. Field’s class, so Mr. Heller bought us a cake that said Better Luck Next Time.”

Melanie was followed by lifer Laszlo Leedy, who made everyone laugh when he mentioned having been at Shorecrest since Alpha class. "That's right, I’ve been going here for fifteen years. And you know what that means. Fifteen years of carline! Do you understand how much collective stress and anxiety is created by fifteen YEARS of carline? It’s like a war zone out there! ... Luckily I’m moving somewhere where the traffic will be a lot nicer - New York City." He later cautioned his classmates to follow the sage advice of the College Center and to not "miss the bus."


Adrianna Linn led audience members through Hollywood's best teen dramas of the '80s, comparing and contrasting her classmates to Ferris Bueller, characters played by Molly Ringwald, Joel Goodson in Risky Business and others. "Drew Zolper helped lead our soccer team to State Semifinals like Friday Night Lights. Charity Chen is our very own Hermione Granger with so much intelligence you would think it must be magic. Chayton Hemsey was our Andie from Pretty in Pink, slaying prom when she won queen this year. And I got my very own Troy Bolton to my Gabriella when I met Kyle Mullins. We all completed each other's perfect movie life together and had our own unique experiences."


Students voted on a faculty speaker, and this year it was Upper School English Teacher Jorden Sanders. Her reflection was a poignant lesson in learning to be herself - a lesson she learned from the very students she was addressing. A video and transcript of her touching but serious warning may be found at the bottom of the Meet the Class of 2018 web page.

The senior members of the Upper School Vocal Ensemble followed with a performance of "100 Years" by Five for Fighting. 

The crowd next heard from lifer Evan Stypinski. He, along with the greater Shorecrest community, lost his mother - Monica - to cancer at the beginning of the year. He cautioned in the words of Rocky Balboa, "'...let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.' This past year has undoubtedly been the hardest of my life. Without the support I received from everybody in this room things could have been far different for me than they are today. Gone - but not forgotten - I know that my mom will be by my side throughout all of my life, and I invite you all to feel the same way. Because when something bad happens, you can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you, which is exactly what I plan to do going forward."


Ashley Ballestra was next to address the grade. She compared her time with the Class of 2018 to an unrefined and unfinished chapter of a story, still being written.

Next, Outstanding Senior Hunter Holland took a start from Shorecrest's tagline. "The Shorecrest’s motto – Be More – is rather open-ended, as it was probably designed to be, but it has one meaning to me that stands out above the rest: Be More You. Be the best possible version of yourself. As you step out into this crazy, magnificent world, don’t forget that the most powerful tool you have is that of your character. It’s who you are that makes all the difference."


Tom Dillow gave his final words of wisdom to Shorecrest graduates. The Dillow family will be relocating this fall as Tom moves into his new role of Headmaster at Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, Connecticut. It was an emotional moment as he bid farewell not only to the Class of 2018, but to Shorecrest.


Finally, Honor Council Secretary Samuel Benjamin turned the podium to face his classmates as he gave the closing address. 

"Look around to your peers on your left and right, to the friends you may have known since Alpha or those that you just became friends with this year. Realize that your time to create new memories with these people is coming to an end. We are all going off to different places next year, meeting new people, doing new things, and just moving on in the process of life. But this is not the end; in fact, it is just the beginning. Tomorrow’s ceremony is specifically called commencement for this reason. Tomorrow, we begin the rest our lives. But, right now, there is no need to think about that and hasten our path towards the future. I want to remind you to enjoy each little moment that we get to spend with each other and hold onto them. I know I will."


Two graduates would miss the next day's Commencement ceremony due to international flights home, so an impromptu awarding of diplomas was held in Headmaster Mike Murphy's office for Yongtao Weng and Francisco Zhang.


The families of the Class of 2018 departed the Shorecrest campus to enjoy a celebratory dinner at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater, where graduates were presented with gifts and viewed the Class of 2018 photo slideshow. Thank you to class liaisons Andi Mullins, Heather O'Neill and Corrie Stover for organizing such a lovely evening for our students and their guests! Congratulations Class of 2018!

  • Read about Commencement here.
  • Read more personal stories from the Class of 2018 and find links to all of the PHOTOS from the weekend here: Meet the Class of 2018.
  • Professional photos from Commencement are now available online for viewing and ordering. The order deadline is June 20th. Please share this link with any friends or relatives who may be interested in seeing the pictures: Use the password: Shorecrest 2018


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Shorecrest Preparatory School is a private, non-sectarian, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students preschool through high school, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.