BY LISA BURGOA
After four years of wrangling with grade point averages, 56 seniors representing the top 5 percent of the Class of 2013 were honored at the annual dinner at Jacaranda Country Club on April 25.
“It’s great to be recognized by Cypress Bay for my hard work,” said Andrew Pearl, who was recognized at the ceremony. “Being in a select group of kids who are going to some of the best
colleges in the country was truly rewarding.”
Having coordinated the dinner for the past 11 years, BRACE adviser Shari Bush said the level of achievement present at the dinner was unprecedented.
“Not a single one of them is under a 5.0,” she said. “What’s so great about them is that they’re so well-rounded. They’ve been involved in sports. There were runners, there were wrestlers, there were swimmers and there were kids who have been involved with math and science and won all these competitions. It’s a super talented group of kids.”
Despite incorporating new elements into the dinner, Ms. Bush said she mostly maintained its traditional format of seven or eight teachers each addressing students individually onstage and awarding each student a medal to sport on graduation.
“What I did differently this year is that I put together a slide show of everyone, where we had them under the age of five morphed into their senior picture, and it was so cute,” she said. “But the highlight was when one by one the teacher talks about the memories they have of each kid. It’s incredibly moving, and you can hear a pin drop because everyone’s so in awe and enraptured.”
Prior to the dinner, principal Scott Neely delivered a speech congratulating the top 5 percent students and their parents. Though he said he wishes he could expand the event to include more students, Mr. Neely said the event celebrated the highest caliber students not just at the Bay but also in Broward County.
Reagan Fuhr said the highlight of the evening was the speech her former AP Statistics teacher delivered to her after years of hard work as a conscientious student landed her in the top 5 percent.
“I took the most interesting, most challenging courses and managed them by prioritizing school above everything else and making sure to never procrastinate,” she said. “It was all worth it when Mr. Farmer spoke for me. After he advertised me as a prom date, he talked about how much he enjoyed having me as a student and the memories of me in his class, which made me simultaneously feel special and a little embarrassed. It was a wonderful speech I’ll never forget.”
Likewise, Pearl said the hallmark of the dinner and his high school career was when his teacher recalled memories of him in her Honors and AP Chemistry class.
“Ms. Russo spoke about me and said that I was very enthusiastic about Chemistry and she knew I was going to take AP and that when I was in AP I excelled,” Pearl said. “It made me feel good that I was appreciated as much as I appreciated her.”
Principal Neely said the attributes of the top 5 percent of the senior class were evident in the speeches of the teachers and the composure of the guests of the dinner.
“These are kids who really appreciate how important education is and getting ahead and learning and the drive that they have. It’s not just the grades, but it’s the heart and soul of the group, and how much they give back to the community, whether it’s back to the Rotary or the special needs kids or dances or whatnot. And it’s just a unique school with a unique group of teachers,” he said. “They know from the beginning what they are doing and where they are going.”
Ms. Bush said organizing the dinner was draining, though she felt rewarded by the achievement of each of the student attendees.
“A lot of tears went on behind the scenes to organize it,” she said. “It’s like planning a wedding. It’s everything from sorting out the tables to seeing who can be there to getting 56 seniors to send me a baby picture. But they’re great kids and it’s a labor of love, seeing them get all dressed up and excited for the evening. It’s all perfect.”
As the year comes to an end, Principal Neely said he considers the dinner a final parting gift from the Bay to the seniors who are graduating in June.
“It’s that special moment before they graduate, and everything’s almost done now,” he said. ”It’s Grad Bash, graduation, and the hasta la vista, off to Princeton, off to Vanderbilt, off to all over the place. It was a very special, intriguing night. It just honors the kids.”
Heading to the University of Florida in the fall, Fuhr said the dinner will live on as one of her most cherished memories of her high school experience.
“I will always remember Mr. Farmer and all the other great teachers I had here that educated, challenged and pushed me to succeed,” she said.