Nease High School graduates remember the past, look to the future


As the Allen D. Nease High School Class of 2017 filtered into the University of North Florida Arena May 24, the students, staff and family reflected on the time spent working toward their commencement.

The large stadium screen recalled memories of the graduates’ school year, displaying clips and photos from the school plays, pageants, game nights and more that encompassed the class of 2017's high school experience as the 468 seniors slowly formed a sea of green on the arena floor.

“It’s with a great deal of pleasure that I recognize these students,” said Principal Lisa Kunze after welcoming the family and friends gathered to witness the ceremony. “And that I recognize the faculty and staff of Nease High School for their dedication. You’ve formed an integral part of these students’ lives.”

The graduating class echoed that sentiment, emphasizing the effect that growing up at Nease – a school repeatedly referred to as a “community” – had on their most formative years.

“It wasn’t just a school,” said Class President Grant Burmeister. “I had a home there – I knew that I wasn’t the weirdest person in the world.”

St. Johns County Superintendent of Schools Tim Forson remarked on the growth he’d seen, extending a sincere thanks and congratulations to the students, staff and family members whose work ultimately contributed to the prosperity of the Nease community.

“I want to congratulate the class of 2017 on a job well done,” Forson said. “Your teachers have invested in you since the day you arrived – you’re a part of everyone who’s touched you and been in your life.

“Our community has grown and gotten better each and every day,” Forson continued. “I just wish the very best for all of you.”

Salutatorian Kiana Rahimi encouraged her classmates to embrace their mistakes and to try new things as they departed for the next step of their journey, reminding them, “We must always remember to pick ourselves back up.

“If we don’t accept challenges … we won’t continue to grow,” Rahimi said.

Valedictorian Ava Marie Hampton agreed, leaving the class with encouraging words in the face of their yet-determined futures.

“I’m not going to try to predict a future I don’t know any better than you,” Hampton said. “But I do know that I’m unbelievably grateful. For the past four years, we’ve done more than go to school together – we’re part of a community.”