'You are the optimist,' said Seabreeze High School's principal Joseph Rawlings in his last commencement speech before retiring.
A near-capacity crowd watched as the Seabreeze High School’s graduating seniors strolled into the Ocean Center’s auditorium in Daytona Beach on Friday, June 4. The sound of “Pomp and Circumstance” faded as student council co-president Trent Crick recited “The Pledge of Allegiance.” Everyone remained at attention as Dawson Denslow sang “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Seabreeze’s Teacher of the Year, Carly Cravotta, introduced the student speakers for the evening’s event: Logan Pigliacampi, Catherine Coleman, Jacob Ponitz and Jake Feigenbaum. Pigliacampi began the orations with an offering of acceptance and understanding.
“Graduation isn’t going to be this amazing, exciting time for everybody,” Pigliacampi said. “While a lot of us are excited for the independence, some of us are afraid of the unknown. The most important thing I want to drive home here today is that that’s okay because we can move forward with things like college, the workforce or even the military but to make such life-altering decisions without hardly any experience in any field is a crazy thing to do.”
This year marks Seabreeze’s first “graduating cohort” of the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education diploma. AICE is a college preparatory program that offers up to 30 college credits and ancillary skills to help students achieve maximum success while attending college. Seven courses and examinations are taken during a student’s sophomore, junior and senior years. Per the student-parent handout, those who complete the curriculum and pass the exams are considered AICE diploma program graduates.
The 2021 commencement speeches reflected not only principal Joseph Rawlings continual reference to his belief that “the choice is yours” but also the obvious: the pandemic.
“March 12, 2020 was our last normal say of school,” Feigenbaum said. “Now, one year, two months, 23 days, 19 hours and about 45 minutes, spring break has come and gone but COVID has been here to stay. That has not stopped the Seabreeze class of 2021 from choosing to do our best. We made it an amazing year and I would like to congratulate us for it. Congratulations to everyone here today for choosing to come to work the past four years and thank you to everyone who made this year possible. Remember Sandcrabs, the choice is ours.”
Rawlings is retiring at the end of this school year and will be succeeded by Dr. Earl Johnson Jr., a Seabreeze alumnus who graduated and returned as a math teacher and assistant principal. In his last graduation speech, Rawlings commended the class of 2021 for being optimists.
“The pessimist in us looks at the challenges as barriers that cannot be overcome, as excuses for failures, for not reaching our goals," Rawlings said. 'The optimist looks at the challenges as opportunities. Opportunities for growth. Opportunities to create new solutions. Opportunities for advancement where none existed before. Your presence here tonight indicates that you are the optimist. You have overcome all challenges your way to achieve success and you have not let anything stand in your way. As I look out over the sea of red before me, I see optimists ready to create their own American dream.”