Marco Island Academy graduates 72 seniors in Class of 2022

First-ever commencement held in the school’s brand-new permanent facility

Lance Shearer

Marco Island Academy (MIA), the island’s charter high school, graduated 72 seniors on Friday night, May 27, in an emotion-filled ceremony. The graduates’ last gathering as MIA students marked a notable first, the first-ever commencement held in the school’s brand-new permanent facility.

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Hosting the students’ graduation in the gymnasium of the state-of-the-art educational venue was the culmination of a remarkable journey, as major benefactor Tish Champagne, speaking along with her husband Rene, told the seniors.

“We were told we would never see a high school on Marco Island,” she said, but “we believed in you and in the future.” Rene Champagne – the duo were kept anonymous as “MIA Special Guests” until they spoke just before the ceremonial turning of the tassels closed the proceedings – pointed out the sobering fact that only 40 percent of college freshmen graduate in four years, and just 53 percent after six years.

“It’s very easy to fall behind, and very difficult to then catch up,” he said, adding that MIA alums have a leg up due to the academic excellence they experienced in high school. Earlier, the students heard from valedictorian Skye LaButte, who said “being the first graduating class in our new home is a true honor.” She told her peers “we have all experienced many challenges,” and shared a major one of hers, when “my dad passed away when I was five years old.”

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Salutatorian Brenna White said the “memories and friendships will last a lifetime,” even though “I haven’t spent much time at the school this year” due to an academic schedule full of college courses.

Teacher Michael Butler presented the Faculty Award to Quintin Fitton, and Principal Melissa Scott, in a twist, awarded the President’s Award to the five students of her “Breakfast Club.”

The commencement address came from MIA class of 2016 alumnus Brian Flynn, now a medical student at St. George’s University. Saying “it’s so fantastic to come back for you guys” and “this building is amazing,” speaking as an MIA student whose entire high school career was spent in the temporary pre-fab classrooms the new facility replaced. He espoused the “universal language of love,” urging the graduates to “spread it.”

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An emotional Principal Melissa Scott hugged each graduate as they received their diplomas, and many again in the lobby afterward. She told them “you keep me young at heart,” and recommended they find their own version of “sparkle,” a mantra of hers.

Some students turned the tops of their mortarboards into billboards, with messages, drawings, flowers and plenty of sparkle. Haylen Irvan’s cap proclaimed “Today a Ray, Tomorrow a Gator,” indicating her choice of university. Ricardo Ramirez inscribed his “To my parents, who came with nothing and gave me EVERYTHING!!”

In the lobby after the ceremony, parents greeted their grads, family photos were taken, and hugs flowed freely. Graduate Keagan Hallock drew a response from his fellows when he exultantly raised his diploma overhead.

And in the area next to the building that used to hold the pre-fabs, construction continued to complete MIA’s remarkable multi-million dollar transformation of their campus.

Marco Island Academy 2022 graduates

  • Valedictorian – Skye Bella LaButte
  • Salutatorian – Brenna White
  • Gisselle Abraham-Mendoza
  • Michelle Renee Armas  
  • Khai Baxley Baldwin
  • Angel Gabriella Bartlett
  • Noah Blaskovich
  • Andrew Borges
  • Lily Grace Braun
  • Sahara Rain Brown
  • Isabella Lee Burgos
  • Dubeth Caceres
  • Ian Peter Campbell
  • Daniel Carroll
  • Jillian Irene Cartwright
  • Tony James Castillo
  • Kaleb James Chamberlin
  • Carson Sinclair Conrad
  • Paola Alexandra Cortazar
  • Robert DiMarco Davis
  • Jayden Rush Dawson
  • Brandon Dominguez
  • Colin Donegan
  • Francesco William Felice
  • Quintin Marshall Fitton
  • Abigail Marie Gallup
  • Phoenix Joseph Gutierrez Christopher Scott Hackman
  • Keagan Michael Hallock
  • Jacqueline Hariharan
  • Hope Elizabeth Hertgers
  • Jacob Reed Hibbard
  • Lucas James Hodgdon
  • Hernan Hurtado-Sandoval
  • Haylen Jae Irvan
  • Hannah McKenzie Jahn
  • Kenneth Kakaty
  • Paulina Kaminski
  • Riley Kate Letendre
  • Jake Michael Lowe
  • Benjamin Lawrence Macko
  • Yessenia Janet Martinez-Hernandez
  • Nicholas Stephen Masi
  • Luke Christian McLain
  • Yanet Mendoza
  • Kyle William Miner
  • Ryan Miner
  • Anthony Salvatore Pace
  • Ryan Scott Palumbo
  • Xavier Parra
  • Ricardo Dariel Ramirez-Gildardo
  • Joseph Nicholas Reisinger
  • Camryn Shea Rose
  • Wendy Saynes-Ruiz
  • Logan Cazes Scalia
  • Sophia Isabella Shea
  • Nicholas Smithem
  • Cadence Joy Snover
  • Jocelyn Marie Snover
  • Kira Lee Swanson
  • Giray Uzen
  • Jorge Francisco Vargas
  • Nicholas David Vergo
  • Kendall M. Virgin
  • Brooks Vorderstrasse
  • Jersey James Webster
  • Rachel Elizabeth Rose Weiner
  • Brendan White
  • David Wilt
  • Alexander Leon Winnik
  • Daniel A. Winnik
  • Colton Charles Wood