Pasco grads ready for next chapter
WESLEY CHAPEL -
The options appear endless as Melissa Yanez ponders her future beyond Wiregrass Ranch High School's Saturday morning graduation ceremony.
She's college bound, for certain, but zeroing in on a major is proving difficult, at least in part because she's fascinated by all possibilities.
“I like everything,” Yanez, 18, said Thursday as she stood outside the school's gymnasium during a graduation rehearsal.
“Except chemistry,” she hastened to add. “I don't like chemistry.”
Yanez is one of nearly 4,000 seniors graduating this weekend at public high schools across Pasco County.
Many ceremonies will take place on the high school campuses, either on the football field or in the gymnasium. Some, such as Wiregrass Ranch, are taking their pomp and circumstance to the University of South Florida Sun Dome.
Land O' Lakes High is up first, with commencement at 4 p.m. today at the Sun Dome. The other graduations happen this evening, Saturday or Sunday, with Fivay High School bringing it all to a close at 6 p.m. Sunday at USF.
After accepting those diplomas, the seniors embark on their new adventures, whether it's to college, the job market, the military or some combination.
Dylan Walker, 17, of Wiregrass Ranch High, begins a four-year tour of duty with the Marines in September. He will become a military police officer, preparing him for a career in law enforcement after his military service ends.
“I needed a plan,” Walker said. “When I decided I wasn't going to college, I needed something to do.”
He hasn't given up on higher education, though. He hopes his time in the Marines will help him earn a bachelor's degree, paid for through the G.I. Bill.
Madison Upchurch, 18, plans to study international business at USF.
“I've always wanted to work in an office,” Upchurch said. “At the same time, I want to travel.”
She views her graduation from Wiregrass Ranch High as equal parts exciting and scary.
High school has been “kind of like a safety net,” Upchurch said, but now it's time to experience life without that net.
Yanez knows the feeling.
She grew up in this part of Wesley Chapel, attending Sand Pine Elementary and Long Middle, both not far from Wiregrass Ranch High.
“Taking the next step out is really scary,” Yanez said, “because I've never had a big change.”