By Maggie Schiller
A year ago, George M. Steinbrenner High School was preparing to open its doors for the first time. However, as hundreds of students streamed through the entrance on that first August morning, there was a noticeable group missing – a senior class.
Not wanting to pull students away from their high school alma mater right before their final year, brand new high schools in Hillsborough County opened without a senior class.
Now a year later, Steinbrenner is preparing to serve a senior class of more than 400 people, according to Kelly King, assistant principal for curriculum.
“We are excited as an administration and faculty to have seniors finally, because it was one of the noticeable differences last year,” she said. “Without having them, you lack a little bit of leadership that first year because they set the tone and the ninth and 10th graders really look up to them. It gives something for the younger kids to aspire to be like, so we didn’t have any of that the first year.”
Along with the administration getting ready for the new school year, King said that many rising seniors have recognized the fact that it is important for them to represent the students in their class.
“We’ve got a really good leadership group in our senior class,” she said. “We’ve got some men and women who are going to go on to do great things and they are excited about getting the opportunity to take the lead.”
But what are the students most excited about?
Senior Alyson Agemy said she is looking forward to being the “big girl” on campus.
“When I think about how far I have come since my first day of high school, it makes me realize just how close I am to the finish line, and that makes me that much more excited to get the year started,” she said. “I am looking forward to that important feeling that I hope I’ll get when I step on campus for the last year.”
Senior Monica Guirguis said being in the first-ever graduating class is going to be amazing.
“It is about being the older ones, and showing them that we are the seniors,” she said.
While some students are excited about being head honcho, senior Chris Groner said he is most looking forward to all of the good things that are to come.
“Being able to have all the senior privileges,” he said. “Things like getting out of school earlier, grad night, prom. It’s just exciting to know that I’m that much closer to moving on into my life and my future.”
King said that she is hoping the senior class will set the tone for the rest of the students.
“We are all about academics. Being able to talk about the accomplishments of the kids and getting into colleges and universities and then even more importantly, once they graduate and they come back to visit, that’s very powerful for the kids to see it’s not just getting in, its actually finishing school,” she said. “Students like to hear it from their peers more than from adults.”
One order of business for the senior class will be to establish new traditions that the school can carry on for years to come.
Groner said that he wants his class to come up with a tradition that demonstrates school pride.
“We haven’t really established any sort of tradition yet, but as long as it sets the standard high for those that follow us I wouldn’t have a problem with it,” he said. “We had a burning of shirts last year from all of our former schools to try and get school spirit in our blood and to vanquish all of our old ties to Sickles High School and Gaither High School. I think that we could hold that every year but make it for the incoming freshman.”
Aside from the setting the standard for all classes to come at Steinbrenner, Agemy said that being the first graduating class means making history.
“I don’t think we all realize how cool it is to be the first graduating class. It’s not life changing or anything, and we won’t get into a better school because of it, but it does hold importance,” she said. “Maybe in 30 years when we open that yearbook and remember we were first, we will realize the small number of people that had that opportunity.”
However, just as important as it is to the rising seniors that they set the right example for those below them, it is just as crucial to the younger students.
Junior Haley Jeziorski has a message for all incoming seniors – this is your year to make it.
“Seniors, what you guys can do is get more involved. That is pretty much all I can tell you, because if you are involved, then freshman are going to look up to you and get involved. It just works,” she said. “Make an imprint on it, do something that no other school has ever done before, no other senior class. You can practically do whatever you want. Seniors make the school. This is your year to make it. Make it your school.”
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