Graduation 2020 is nothing like anyone could have ever imagined due to the onset of the Coronavirus. Three Marco Island students who will graduate from Florida State University, along with two from Marco Island Academy and one from Lely High School, were happy to share some of their experiences with Coastal Breeze readers.
Meagan Reisinger, Tara Snyder and Cole Stretton will all graduate from FSU in a virtual ceremony on Saturday, May 2nd, at 2 PM.
Reisinger and Stretton graduated from Marco Island Academy and Snyder from Lely. All three were very active as high school students.
Reisinger and Stretton were top students at MIA. Reisinger was Homecoming Queen at MIA, in addition to being a cheerleader and member of the golf team. Stretton was an all-state basketball player and was selected as Southwest Florida’s Player of the Year.
Snyder was busy at Lely as Senior Class President, a member of the National Honor Society, and a member of the cheerleading and track squads. She ran the 400-meter dash and pole vaulted for the track team.
The trio have stayed in close contact during their careers at Florida State and were looking forward to a traditional graduation. They all had a great 4 years in Tallahassee.
“It almost doesn’t seem real,” Reisinger said of her college experience. “It feels like my parents dropped me off at my dorm, I blinked, and now people are telling me I’m graduating. I feel so fortunate to have been given the experience and opportunity to attend FSU. I’m excited for my future, but sad to leave behind the people and place I called home for 4 years.”
“I feel great about graduating,” Stretton stated. “I had an amazing 4 years at Florida State, but I am ready to move to the next chapter of my life.”
“Graduation is a bittersweet feeling,” Snyder admitted. “Since the beginning of senior year, I was excited to see what the future had in store after walking across the stage and earning that diploma. I left campus for Spring Break without knowing those would be the last moments of my time at FSU. I was ready to graduate; I was ready to say my goodbyes and I was ready to do my ‘lasts’ of being an FSU student. After the Class of 2020 was told our commencement was cancelled due to the virus, the feeling of wanting to leave and move on wasn’t as strong.”
All three of the grads-to-be have been keeping contact with their Marco friends during the pandemic.
“I’m staying in touch with my fellow Marco kids virtually mostly,” explained Snyder. “My friend Meagan and I always FaceTime and do virtual Happy Hour just to pretend we’re still living our last college moments together.”
“My hometown friends will always have a special place in my heart,” Reisinger said. “I will never not keep in touch with them. I don’t know what I would do if texting, FaceTiming, and social media was not a thing. It’s hard living so close to them right now and not being able to see them.”
“I stay in touch with many of my friends from the island by seeing them during breaks and through social media,” Stretton said.
The students are keeping a positive attitude during these trying times.
Reisinger proudly explained, “Instead of thinking about all the memories I could’ve had those last few months of school, I try to think about all the amazing memories I already did have. I also try to put my situation into perspective. I try to appreciate what I do have as opposed to what I don’t have. To keep my mind off everything, I’ve been focusing on school more to finish off the semester strong and trying to stay active.”
Snyder agreed as she added, “I am taking this as a positive experience by reminding myself how blessed I am to live in such a beautiful place. I do my homework and studies on my dock outside while enjoying the beautiful day. I spend more time with my family by going on walks together or going on the boat to watch the sunset. Yes, my time at FSU got cut short, but I am grateful to be able to spend some time in the sunshine state at home and still earn my diploma.”
The three are also ready for their next step.
“My next stop is Basic Officer Leadership Course for the Army Reserves,” Stretton said. “Upon completion of that, I intend to go to the police academy.”
“I will be continuing my education after FSU by attending Palmer College of Chiropractic to begin the Doctor of Chiropractic program in July,” Snyder said.
Reisinger won’t be changing her surroundings too much. “I’ll be continuing my education through FSU’s graduate program. The undergrad chapter of my life is coming to an end. I only wish my parents could’ve watched me walk down that stage.”
Snyder also feels a bit of a void when thinking of graduation day, but she still has hope as she said, “I hope the Class of 2020 gets to go back to FSU’s campus and have a proper commencement ceremony to celebrate all our achievements and hard work that we’ve put in for the last 4 years.”