Jocelyn Morgan’s journey at Golden Gate High School has had all the makings of a typical high school experience.
Outgoing and dedicated to her studies, she has taken advanced placement courses, has a part-time job, plays the drums at her church and often has to coax her '98 Toyota Forerunner to get her from Point A to Point B.
"A little more than a little (coaxing), more like a lot," said Jocelyn, 18, who’ll be graduating with her classmates on Friday.
But it has been Jocelyn’s ability to balance the normal and deal with life’s unexpected turns that have made her appreciate what comes after the cap and gown.
"There is too much opportunity not to take advantage of something," Jocelyn said.
When she started her sophomore year at Golden Gate high, Jocelyn dove right into myriad of activities ranging from student government to Key Club. Back in 2004, she was one of the school’s inaugural students.
That changed in 2005 when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I've been keeping a low profile since then," said Jocelyn, who would accompany her mother to and from clinic visits.
After the initial battle with breast cancer, her mother was also diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006.
Joann Morgan said that the diagnosis was difficult on Jocelyn, the younger of her two daughters, but that Jocelyn took it upon herself to be her mother’s main source of laughter -- the best medicine.
"She's a very funny girl," said Morgan. "Sometimes I have to get her out of the room and tell her that it's time to go because she makes me laugh so hard."
AP English teacher Constance Pinkney said that it’s Jocelyn’s positive attitude that makes her stand out from the crowd.
"She’s very smart," said Pinkney, who was also Jocelyn’s 10th grade English teacher. "She is a gifted humorist and is one of the funniest people I know. She can take something that is so heavy, so weighty and find something funny an enlightening."
With Morgan’s cancer now in remission, Jocelyn has been taking the time to learn a little more about who she is and what she wants to do next.
An avid writer, Jocelyn has had some of her poetry published and was recently chosen to be the master of ceremonies for Golden Gate High’s multicultural show "Opening the Gates to Culture Connections."
"She can walk on the stage of life and pull it together," said Pinkney, adding that Jocelyn’s quick wittiness was one of the reasons that she chose Jocelyn for the hosting duties. "When Jocelyn does something it will be poignant. It will be so funny that tears will come out of your face. When I look at her future, she is going to walk onto that stage and she is going to carry it."
The self-taught percussionist has also continued playing the drums at Macedonian Baptist Church, where her grandfather is a pastor.
However, to help her find out who she is going to become, Jocelyn made the difficult decision to leave home and attend community college in Tampa.
"I feel that if I don't do it now, I might not want to do it later," said Jocelyn.
And her family has already given their blessings.
"She was concerned about being too far from home," said Morgan.
But the family agreed that Tampa is close enough that Jocelyn will be making quite a few trips to visit home.
"The first two years are going to be pretty hard, because I'm leaving my mom and my family," she said, adding that concentrating on making the transition into adulthood will be an adventure unto itself. "It’s going to be my test. So wherever I go off the last two years, I’ll be pretty prepared."
However, she still needs to get through graduation first.
"I tried on my cap and gown the other day, and there were just tears of joy," said Jocelyn. "They’re going to need a boat to paddle me out of the gym on Graduation Day. I can't wait."
SCHOOL: Golden Gate High School
CLASS SIZE: 322
GRADUATION: 7 p.m. Friday at the Golden Gate High Auditorium
CLASS OFFICERS: President Yoldine Valery, vice president Gabriel Francois, secretary Orelys Martinez and treasurer Liliet Tarrago.