It was a walk back in time for many of the Marco Island Academy graduating Class of 2015 when they returned to the Family Church, formerly the First Baptist Church, on May 29.
It was where the school got its start in 2011.
The auditorium was packed in celebration as ceremonies marked the first class to complete four years of education at the young school.
Starting with 62 students in 2011, the class size will be 255 in the fall, its maximum size at its one-year-old location on San Marco Road, on the way to Goodland.
There were 33 graduates who crossed the stage to receive their diplomas.
In their talks, the top two students gave credit to their success due to the school’s educational and family atmosphere.
Valedictorian Fermin Prince Mendoza-Jauregui chose to stay on Marco for a small school experience.
Even thoughhe had attended Marco schools, he considered Marco Island Academy “a fresh start with new people and teachers, with no prior expectations. It has a closer atmosphere and I made better friends through teachers and classmates.”
He will be going to Johns Hopkins University. He expects to earn a degree in the neurological field. “I will miss friends and family,” he said and is “already looking to prolong going.” Yet, “Johns Hopkins will be another new start.”
Valedictorian Jessica Hall also preferred a small high school.
“I was able to get a more personal education,” she said. “I learned a lot while making friends. It was more like a family.” Hall will be going to the University of Florida to gain a business degree, planning to go on for a master’s degree in health administration.
Principal Melissa Scott first served as a teacherat the school during the four years. She completed her first year as principal, guiding this graduating class. “I couldn’t be prouder,” she said of the graduating class. “The students will go on to live their dreams. They will continue to shine in their own magnificent ways.”
Assistant Principal Amber Prange too started as a teacher. “This is an emotional time, having been with them all four years,” she said. “I am excited and proud. We had our challenges and moments, but we survived together. I have special memories of each of the kids that you can have in a small school. I am excited for them as they go on to adulthood.”
Maureen McFarland gave the keynote speech. She has been a volunteer in the school’s Environmental Science class the past semester and will be a professor at Florida SouthWestern State College in the fall.