Class of 2013 sets long-term goals

Published on: May 30, 2013

With the exception of the South County Career Center which has a much smaller number of graduates — 65 this year — Hillsborough County schools hold graduation exercises at the Florida Fairgrounds Expo Hall. Above was the East Bay High School graduating class of 2012. Penny Fletcher File Photo

With the exception of the South County Career Center which has a much smaller number of graduates — 65 this year — Hillsborough County schools hold graduation exercises at the Florida Fairgrounds Expo Hall. Above was the East Bay High School graduating class of 2012. Penny Fletcher File Photo


Karlye Becker imagines a lifetime of caring for animals. When asked where she expects to be by the time of her 10th, 25th and 50th class reunion Becker was quick to answer.

That’s because the Riverview High School valedictorian already has a plan.

“By my 10th reunion, I will be starting my career as a veterinarian after completing eight years of college. By my 25th, I will own my own vet practice and be volunteering my services at the CARE animal shelter in Ruskin,” she said. “By the time I have my 50th reunion, I plan to be retired and well-traveled and have an amazing family.”

Amanda Mikos also has a life plan.

Mikos, also a student at Riverview High School, said by the time she goes to her 10th reunion, she hopes to be able to record her own music.

“By my 25th reunion, I’ll be living in a big house in Florida with my husband and my two kids, and by my 50th, I’ll be talking about my grandkids, who I will spoil unconditionally.”

East Bay High School valedictorian Christopher “Kyle” Privette plans to start the education for his eventual career in the medical field with a study of marine biology at the University of Miami. “Many of the same courses are required for marine biology and pre med,” Privette said.

He will also attend graduate school, and medical school, and then specialty training, with his eventual goal in medicine being anesthesiology, he said. “I might decide to change that later, to go into plastic surgery or some other type of surgery, but right now I’m thinking it will be anesthesiology.”

Privette knows he will barely be finishing his specialty school by his 10th high school reunion but said by his 25th he wants to be in practice for himself, and later in life join a group like Doctors Without Borders to aid those who cannot afford or access medical care.

“This concerns me very deeply,” Privette said. “I’m really looking forward to helping with something like that.”

We all know things don’t always go according to the plans made when students graduate from high school. Some have to quit secondary school early to work full time. Others marry early, or become parents.

Occasionally however, life turns out even better than what’s been planned.

Such is the case of former superintendent of schools Earl J. Lennard, after whom Ruskin’s Lennard high school is named.

Dr. Lennard is a Hillsborough County native. He grew up here and graduated from Brandon High School, attended the University of South Florida and then the University of Florida.

Lennard had originally planned to become an attorney, but he said he ended up in work that was much more satisfying to him and he wouldn’t change any of it if he had it to do over again.

“About the time I got to the University of Florida, I realized it took a lot of time and money to go to law school. But that wasn’t the whole thing that influenced my decision,” he said. “It was the Kennedy Era. Many people remember JFK’s famous speech that included the line ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ ”

Lennard said he thought about that very seriously. “We needed teachers. And teachers can influence future generations through the youth.”

So in 1963, Dr. Lennard began his career as a teacher at Ruskin Elementary School and then went on to teach at East Bay High School. In 1979, he became a supervisor. He was never a principal, which is usually the next step in education’s administrative path.

“I was an assistant supervisor, and then worked as Deputy Supervisor,” he said. “So when I was offered the position, I felt it was the thing to do.”

Lennard did this job until July 1, 1996 when he thought he was retiring.

His retirement didn’t go as planned either.

In 2009 he was elected to the position of Supervisor of Elections; a position he held until 2013.
“Life can certainly take many turns,” Lennard said. “I’m very grateful for everything I’ve gotten a chance to do. The best part of life isn’t having a certain job. It’s reaching for and attaining goals.”

Lennard said he never forgot the words of John F. Kennedy’s speech. They influenced him throughout his entire life.

“Right about the time I heard the speech, I was in a class called ‘American Ideas.’ One of the professors in that class influenced me too. We talked a lot about what was needed in the country.”

Dedicated teachers were, and are always, needed, he explained.

When talking about the milestones in his life, Lennard said by the time he’d reached his 10th high school reunion, he was completely comfortable with his job as a teacher. At that time he expected to remain a teacher for 30 or so years and then retire.

“But by my 25th, I was a supervisor, and although at first I didn’t think I’d be, I was comfortable in administration too. As the years went by, I could see that what each of us did had a ripple effect on everyone who worked with us, as well as on the students.”

Will the plans made by today’s graduating seniors remain in tact or will they be even bigger and better than their original plans as Dr. Lennard’s were?

Students at the South County Career Center have already started studies in their chosen line of work along with attaining their high school diplomas. Depending upon their chosen profession, some will have paperwork that certifies them to go straight to work.

Culinary student James Maldanado plans to have his own restaurant before the next 10 years is up. “Then, in 25 years, I see myself having a club that’ll blow people’s minds,” he said. “In 50, I can pass it down to someone in my family.”

Elizabeth Yemen wants to work in a biochemical laboratory but also wants to help the community as a volunteer paramedic. “In 25 years I hope to be helping to fund scholarships for students who can’t afford college,” she added.

Looking ahead 50 years Yemen pictures herself helping her children and grandchildren succeed as well.

Brenden Stearns is heading for police academy. “Twenty-five years from now I hope to be a prestigious captain and have a loving family,” he said.

Stearns and every other student interviewed for this story- with the exception of Privette- imagines himself (or herself) retired on or before their 50th high school reunion.

Only time will tell what life has in store for the Class of 2013.

Accompanying this story are the statistics of the graduating classes of five South County high schools as well as the career center. Numbers graduating and valedictorians and salutatorians are included.

But one South County salutatorian has a slightly different story so we will mention her here.

Samantha Schneider-Behen of Apollo Beach is the 2013 salutatorian at Blake High School in Tampa. She chose to travel to Tampa instead of attending her local school because of its focus on the arts.
“My grade-point-average is 6.3. I have worked very hard,” Schneider-Behen said.

“I went to Howard W. Blake High School because it is a magnet school that focuses in the arts. My first love is musical theater so it was a natural fit. I will be attending Oklahoma City University in the fall of 2013. I will be in a bachelor of music degree program with a focus in Musical Theater.”

So will we one day see Schneider-Behen on the Broadway stage or perhaps in a movie on prime time television? Or will her life be even bigger and better than any dream could predict?

The world is waiting for the next Lucille Ball or John Wayne. Or perhaps a South County graduate from the Class of 2013 will break ground- maybe even be the first woman president. When Madame Curie graduated no one predicted she would be the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize.

Life paths twist and turn. South County’s Dr. Earl Lennard is certainly proof of that.

So when the caps are thrown in the air and the gowns come off, anything is possible.

Congratulations to all South County’s grads!

South County Graduation Facts

Bloomingdale High School led by Principal Sue Burkett anticipates 571 graduating seniors with exercises to be held June 4 at 8 p.m. at the Florida Fairgrounds Expo Hall. Class valedictorian is Marc Eric Cohen with a 7.13 grade-point-average. Salutatorian is Ian Griffith with a 7.12 GPA.

East Bay High School led by Principal Maria Gsell anticipates 445 graduates May 31 at 4:30 p.m., also at Expo Hall. Class valedictorian is Christopher Kyle Privette with a GPA of 6.97. Salutatorian is Shelby McConnell with a 6.40 GPA.

Earl J. Lennard High School led by Craig S. Horstman anticipates 375 graduates May 31 at 8 p.m. at Expo Hall with class valedictorian Corey Ashmeade who has a GPA of 6.7512 and salutatorian Trenton Conture who has a GPA of 6.7504.

Riverview High School led by Principal Robert Heilmann anticipates 525 graduates June 3 at 4:30 p.m. at Expo Hall. Class valedictorian is Karlye Marie Becker with a GPA of 6.80 and salutatorian Bradley Alexander Smith with a GPA of 6.76.

South County Career Center led by Principal Sandra Bailey anticipates 65 graduates May 30th at 3 p.m. on the South County Career Center grounds, 2803 John Sherman Way, Ruskin (south of the Little Manatee River).

*These facts were supplied by the media representatives for the Hillsborough County School District.