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Marco Island Academy (MIA), the island’s charter high school, graduated its seniors on Friday night, in a ceremony at the Family Church. Forty-six graduates “walked,” completing the ritual that closes one chapter in their lives and begins their next adventures.

More: Marco Island Academy breaks ground for new permanent campus

The graduates heard from their valedictorian Teagan Havemeier and salutatorian Morgan Jones, from Principal Melissa Scott, and from 2015 MIA grad, and now graduate of the Ringling College of Art and Design Livia Lenhoff, who gave the commencement address. They were serenaded by the spring 2019 musical theater class, singing the “Marco Island Academy Alma Mater” and “For Good,” which involved some of the robed honorees getting up from among their classmates and joining the underclass members of the ensemble on stage.

But to some extent, the show was stolen by the closing address, delivered by retiring math teacher Dorothy Chapman, a brief speech that was not even listed in the evening’s program. Chapman said she had discarded her original remarks, as “you’ve already heard so much good advice.”

A veteran of 32 years teaching, she told the seniors her four years at MIA had mirrored theirs. Like the students, she had been excited and a little nervous, and now felt a family connection. “I will miss you every day – well, most of the time – well, some of the time,” she quipped, bringing down the house.

More: Awards night: Marco Island Academy honors outstanding seniors

“Now is the time to come clean. You will never again factor a quadratic equation or simplify a radical in your real life,” she said, but offered the opinion the challenge of learning mathematics would prove valuable in whatever endeavors they pursued. Then Chapman pulled a tiara and a star-tipped wand from her robes and turned fairy godmother to bestow a blessing on the grads.

In her valedictory address, Havemeier looked forward to a time when the temporary campus of MIA will be just a memory.

“Moving forward into the next phase of the school, let us not forget the campus that was home to all these memories we have created. We have shattered school records, excelled past county averages, survived a hurricane, and now, we will be one of the last classes to say we did it all without a building.”

While the focus of the evening was properly on the graduates, MIA founder Jane Watt did say after the ceremony that the school has seen outstanding success in its fundraising efforts for “graduating to a permanent campus,” garnering over $5 million in under a week this month. Their previous phased construction has now been compressed, with all the new facilities to be constructed simultaneously, which could see MIA students in their new home as early as 2020. 

More: Social Scene: MIA senior picnic

Lenhoff’s remarks marked the first time the school’s commencement address was delivered by a former MIA student. Standing in front of the MIA crest that she designed, and then a sequence of her animation work, that she will continue in her new job at Nickelodeon, Lenhoff told the grads “I realized what I wanted to do was right in front of me – I just had to reach out and grab it. You can make a living doing what you love. Never do anything just for money.”

She also cautioned the students about things in their world that might hold them back. “If your friends are the bump in the road, maybe it’s time for some new friends.”

A video of students’ comments and reflections created by parent Jennifer Zuck brought out that what they cherished most was the “small school environment,” and the opportunities they were afforded there. The graduates will carry their experiences with them as they head out into the much bigger world that awaits them.

Class of 2019

Valedictorian – Teagan Michelle Havemeier 

Salutatorian – Morgan Andreea Jones 

Kaleb Michael Acosta 

Jamison Christian Adams 

Joshua Ames 

Tristan Arroyave 

Justin Bethea 

Emily Jane Boxma 

Nicole Dawn Brunson 

Trevor Cameron 

Cameron Campbell 

Jay Guy Cartwright Jr. 

Anna Rae Chamberlin 

Garrett Jacob Chamberlin 

Arthur W. Combe, III 

Zoe Coronel 

Kailtlin Kelly Creedon 

Marshall Daffner 

Jayce Rae Dawson 

Lauren Victoria DeHooghe 

Anthony Ardika Excell 

Finleigh Paige Fitton 

Joseph Aaron Golec 

Ariel Nicole Johnson 

Lauren Christine Johnson 

Ron Linn 

Evans Metelus 

Mia Nicole Mikula 

Harvey James Millar 

Jorge Jaime Muñoz 

Willow Jean Nash 

Jackson Patrick O’Shea 

Emily Irene Olszak 

Juan David Patino 

Anthony Joseph Politi 

Axel Rodolfo Reyes 

Ethan Patrick Shean 

Charles Phillip Slonaker, III 

Rayhan Shawn Smith 

Emma Mackenzie Snow 

Sean Patrick Sorrick 

Madaline Tia Spencer 

Cassie Marie Sullivan 

Aylin Uzen 

Mary Elisabeth Vale 

Cameron Zuck

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