Twenty-four members of FPC's Class of 2020 have enlisted in the military.
Among the cars at the Daytona International Speedway, waiting to proceed to the finish line for Flagler Palm Coast High School’s historic graduation ceremony on May 31, were two families who were particularly grateful to have an in-person event, rather than a virtual one.
First was Mark Doane. He’s heading to the Army soon, and if the graduation had been delayed, he might not have been able to attend.
“These are the people I worked hard with,” Doane said. “I wanted to graduate with them.”
FPC Principal James Russell later told the crowd that 24 members of FPC's Class of 2020 have enlisted in the armed forces.
Second: A mother, Rosanne Jameson Coker, rode with a banner honoring her son, Pfc. Andrew Jameson, who left for basic training in February. Because of the pandemic, Jameson didn’t have a basic training graduation, either.
“This is what we’re getting,” Coker said of the Speedway ceremony. “He’s not here, but I want him to know that we’re here to represent him. In a way, I feel like we’re here representing the whole Marine Corps.”
Rosanne said Jameson had also planned to get married to his girlfriend during a scheduled 10-day leave after basic training, but the wedding had to be postponed, because leave was canceled due to the pandemic.
Jameson’s brother, Evan, is also a student at FPC and was able to FaceTime with Jameson recently so he could virtually walk the halls and add his signature on a designated sign at FPC.
School Board member Janet McDonald praised Flagler Schools’ JROTC program for “helping the kids in whatever direction they want to go.”
School Board member Trevor Tucker said he was appreciative of the graduation committee’s decision to hold an event as early as May 31, so that more graduates could attend before they left for the military or college.
Several graduates told the Palm Coast Observer that they would have preferred an Ocean Center graduation, as had been planned originally, so that more family members could attend. But the Speedway suited the Antones family just fine.
Connor Antones, who plans a career in heating, ventilation and air conditioning after graduation, grew up watching racing, and it was surreal to be on the historic track. He wore a Dale Earnhardt Sr. T-shirt while he waited for his turn to head to the finish line. Connor’s mother, Gloria Antones, also wore a Dale Sr. shirt in the passenger seat.
They realized that they were parked directly in front of the spot where Earnhardt died on Feb. 18, 2001, in a crash on the final lap at the Daytona 500.
Meanwhile, a few rows of cars away, graduate Ahnika Gee said the Speedway event was “very Florida.” She joked: “It reflects what we’re doing for high school: going really fast, really dangerously, nonstop.”
Another parent was disappointed he was only allowed to go 55 mph on the track. “I wish they’d let us go up on the banks a little bit,” said Oscar Mariano, step father of graduate Tony Conley.
After Class President Alyssa Santore welcomed the crowd, Isabella Scarcella delivered a commencement address. She highlighted fads and trends, challenges and accomplishments the class had experienced.
“We’ve created our own light during this very uncertain time."
ISABELLA SCARCELLA, graduate
“We’ve created our own light during this very uncertain time,” she said.
Scarcella also challenged the class to be respectful, curious and to help others in need.
“If not you, then who?” she said.
Principal James Russell also acknowledged the difficulties this class has endured, but he praised the seniors for never giving up. They contributed more than 25,000 hours of community service, he said.
“Your K-12 race has been won,” Russell said.