Mainland High School seniors celebrate success after the ups and downs of a pandemic year.
As “Pomp and Circumstance” echoed throughout the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach Friday, June 4, a sea of blue robes began to trickle in as Mainland High School’s graduating seniors began their student processional.
Everyone remained standing as Mainland’s Air Force Junior ROTC color guard presented the colors and was followed by one of the high notes of the ceremony, Miss Mainland Jacqueline Williams’ rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Principal Dr. Joseph Castelli addressed the seniors and commended them for their accomplishments. According to Castelli, 57% of this class graduated with a grade point average above 3.0, 27% of which maintained a 3.5 GPA or higher. A total of 9,346 community service hours were recorded and $3.3 million worth of scholarship funds were attained by the seniors. Seven of the students were dual enrolled at Daytona State College and have completed associate degrees.
Graduates who have chosen to further their education will be attending Stanford University, University of Florida, University of Central Florida, University of Southern Florida, Louisiana State University and Bethune-Cookman University, to name a few.
“On a personal note,” Castelli said. “The graduates of 2021 began their senior journey the same time I began my journey as their principal. I will remember this year for the rest of my life.”
Senior class representative Malana Jackson shared a few words of wisdom with her classmates, number one being that “procrastination is not your friend.” Jackson graduated with a 4.4 GPA and will major in chemistry on a pre-medical track at the University of Florida. In parting, she recited a quote from Dr. Seuss.
“You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes,” Jackson quoted. “You can steer yourself in any way you choose.”
Salutatorian Cydney Wright followed Jackson at the podium. Wright will be headed to Stanford University this fall as a Division 1 track athlete while pursuing her dream of becoming a neurosurgeon. She is Mainland’s first female track and field state champion. During her commencement speech, Wright requested that all of the graduates close their eyes and envision their dreams.
“So, if you have a dream, chase it,” Wright said. “If you can see it in your head, you can accomplish it.”
Blake Culver understands that logic. He fought to graduate with his class after he had been battling leukemia for some time and was not given a good prognosis. There was a possibility that it would be too risky for him to participate but his doctor set him up with a medicinal pump and he walked across the stage with his classmates. His mother, Theresa Culver, beamed with a mixture of sadness and pride.
“He fought his way to be here,” Culver said. “It’s not just a teenage thing. It’s a life thing. It may be his last thing but it’s up to God.”