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This year’s graduating classes all show same trend

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image East Bay High School Principal Sharon Morris. Penny Fletcher Photo

In hard times, like this economy, plans for the summer and fall school year have changed.


SOUTH COUNTY — I’ve been doing stories about local high school graduations in South County since 1988- when East Bay was the only high school in my 325-square mile coverage area.

Then Riverview was opened in 1998, and long-time East Bay principal Vince Thompson was transferred there to get it up and running.

In 2006, Earl J. Lennard opened in Ruskin, which further relieved the burden of overcrowding from East Bay.

It’s hard to believe that what is now the Eisenhower Middle School was the original East Bay high, built in the mid-1960s. Until then, all students living south of Brandon went to Wimauma High School. That’s the red brick building that is still used for Wimauma elementary.

When there was only one high school to write about it was possible to do more concentrated stories, including things like who was class president; what the prom theme was and even give mini recaps of the biggest events, volunteer projects and fundraisers that had happened during the school year.

Now, however, in an effort to treat all three high schools equally, it is only possible to touch on the most important things, like the date, time and place of the graduations in case family and friends want to go.

But South County is still a small enough community that each year, as graduation rolls around, I am able to ask a few questions of school officials, like how many are in the graduating class; what is the percentage of students going on to post-secondary education and who are the class valedictorians and salutatorians.

This year, as I was interviewing, however, I saw something I’ve never seen before. No matter where I went or who I talked to, the trend was the same. Students aren’t fooling around anymore. They’re not talking about college in the same way as before.

If they’re planning to go, they’re planning to work. And while they’re there, the majority doesn’t intend to party but to prepare for practical careers.

Kathy Bramlett, Riverview’s assistant principal for curriculum, summed it up well.

“Students are tending to go to less expensive schools. We see more kids going to HCC for two years and then transferring to a university to make their Bright Futures (scholarships) go farther,” Bramlett said. “Most aren’t taking majors like philosophy and literature anymore; they’re headed for careers where they can get jobs.”

Layne Spotts, Lennard’s college and career counselor agrees.

She says many of her students that are university material are opting for two years at the Honors Institute at Hillsborough Community College because they can get full scholarships there which is important since funding for scholarships has been cut at many levels.

“They are preparing for the job market,” Spotts said. “The top careers I’ve seen this year are health care, education, pharmacy, engineering, computers and IT.”

East Bay High School Principal Sharon Morris said this year’s class has really surprised her.

“They have exceeded all expectations. They’re close-knit, helpful to each other. It’s like they’re all friends,” Morris told me.

In hard times, like this economy, plans for the summer and fall school year have changed.

Every student I talked to said the same thing: they wanted to find a summer job but so far had not been able to.

Still, valedictorians and salutatorians were able to overcome extreme odds against them to reach grade point averages exceeding 6 points; students often located scholarships through hours of research; and those I spoke with said they expected they could eventually make their dreams come true.

A separate story about the three South County schools’ valedictorians and salutatorians will tell you more about what those dreams are, and how they plan to make them happen.

All Hillsborough County High School graduations will be held at the Florida State Fairground’s Expo Hall, 4800 U.S. 301 N. Tampa.

  • East Bay’s class of 448 will graduate June 6 at 8 p.m.
  • Lennard’s class of 286 will graduate tonight - June 2 at 8 p.m.
  • Riverview’s class of 450 will graduate June 6 at 4:30 p.m.


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