Class of 2022 is a class of resiliency

Bulldogs battle through COVID and construction to walk the stage

The Zephyrhills High School Class of 2022 proved to be a class of resilience.

The 339 ZHS graduates who walked across the Yuengling Center stage at the University of South Florida Thursday afternoon endured a pandemic that forced them from their school to an at-home educational environment as sophomores.

 Once they returned the following year, their school was turned upside down due to a complete $33 million school renovation during the school calendar while dealing with the fallout of Covid 19.

“Being a teenager during Covid forced us to learn the important life skills of being adaptable, how to cope with disappointment, and how to focus on what matters most – family and friends,” said Salutatorian Madison Poe in her speech to her fellow classmates. “All of these lessons and the character we developed through overcoming obstacles will certainly pay off as we move into the next chapter of our lives – college or career, wherever you go next, always remember the mental toughness you gained through your time at ZHS.

“Senior year, although not completely free from Covid repercussions, was overall one that allowed us to just be teenagers again. We didn’t have to worry about being quarantined and possibly missing something important to us, just because of who we sat next to in class. We were able to have our family and friends at our important activities to support us and cheer us on.”

Family and friend for all of the Class of 2022 were out in full force Thursday to hoot, howl and clap for the grads.

The 2022 graduation returned to the campus of the University of South Florida following two years of ceremonies at Bulldog Stadium due to Covid measures.

The return to the Yuengling Center for the Class of 2022 commencement ceremony serves as the crowning achievement in the class’ resiliency toward normalcy.

Zephyrhills High School Principal Dr. Christian Stanley pointed out that the Class of 2022 is “a force” in the way it overcame adversity and served its community.

“As you all start the next chapter of your adventure, please continue your service to others by continuing your educational paths, excelling in your chosen careers, be good citizens and helping and caring for others,” Stanley said. “Today is the culmination of years of really hard work.

“It is not only a milestone in your lives, but also for your family, our school and our community. I can’t wait to see you make this world a better place.”

Valedictorian Alyssa Perez told the Bulldogs they will achieve their goals once they walk out of the building, yet there will be failures along the way.

“This next phase of our lives, whether you are pursuing more education or your career, will inevitably be the most thrilling yet difficult time of our lives. We will achieve great things, but we will also fail,” Perez said. “We cannot escape it. However, what we choose to do with that failure will determine our success.

“Do not give up. I know it is cheesy, but I promise you, if you want something bad enough and you work hard enough, you can and will achieve it. The light bulb was invented through a process of 1001 experiments, 1000 of which were failures. We must leave this room unafraid of failure, as failure is the best way to learn.”

Senior Class Vice President Kamil Mehrab set the tone of both messages, adding a comedic twist.

“We stand here today to celebrate the crazy journey we all have took to get to this day, yes days were hard, no doubt about it, but through those hard days are experiences we learned, we learned to take things with a grain of salt, we also learned that not much can stop us, not even the smell of the carpet that we walked on our freshman year,” Mehrab said getting a chuckle from fellow Bulldogs.

“I stand before our future doctors, engineers, and teachers, and I tell you the journey will not be easy, high school was not, but nothing worth doing is not going to be, so I encourage you too never to give up, remember your goals and pursue your dreams.”

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