What can I say but thank goodness for air-conditioning?!? It was a tad warm with temperatures in the mid-90's and the heat index even higher but parents, grandparents, friends, and other family members were all nice and comfy as they waited for the big event to begin. I had met up with Jamie's father and her step-mom outside of the auditorium and also sat with them during the 2+ hour ceremony where I got to see that some things never change when the ex nodded off and snored a bit during the guest speaker's speech (which I thought was rather good myself). However, I'm getting ahead of myself!
The ceremony began with the Posting of the Platoon Guidons which was accompanied by a Drill & Ceremony performance by each of the three graduating platoons. The Platoon #1 Cougars - the girls - were the first to perform and marched in from the top of the auditorium.
|1st Platoon Cougars get ready to make their entrance for their Drill & Ceremony manuevers|
|Jamie is the fifth cadet up on the right as they march into the auditorium (image credit)|
I took a video with my iPhone but I was too far away to really be able to get much of anything though you can hear how well the cadets were all in step as they performed. Having done what we referred to as "monkey drills" when I was in the Air Force, I know the time and effort that goes into learning the proper marching needed to perform as well as these girls did and I really couldn't have been prouder of my own cadet. Truth be told, it's kind of hard to hold still enough to film anything when you're starting to snivel!
|The 1st Platoon Cougars|
|A very blurry picture of my cadet!|
Following the impressive drills by all three platoons, the ceremony continued with the Graduation March and the entry of the 114 cadets who now had caps and gowns covering their uniforms. I had to smile as it's the first time I've ever seen combat boots peaking out from beneath a graduation gown and that lump in my throat got just a little bit bigger. I was just glad I had remembered to grab some tissues before leaving my hotel room earlier!
|The Acadmy Color Guard presents the flags|
After the graduates had filed down to the front area of the stage, the Academy Color Guard presented the Colors and those boys did an absolutely fantastic job. Whoever trained these kids most definitely knew what they were doing as you couldn't have asked for more precision from seasoned vets.
The National Anthem was sung by one of the female cadets which was then followed by various speakers including the Guest Speaker that the ex dozed off to - Mr. Ben Wortham who is the Superintendent of the Clay County School District that the Academy is associated with. I thought that he had a very inspiring speech but I also hadn't made the four-hour drive up from Saint Petersburg like Jamie's father had so it was easier for me to be awake I guess.
After the presentation of class awards, it was on to the part that the cadets had waited 5-1/2 months for - the presentation of the diplomas!
|Jamie waits her turn for her diploma|
|Jamie receives her diploma from the Adjutant General of Florida Major General Douglas Burnett|
After the last cadet received his diploma, the colors were retired by the Academy Color Guard and then Class #18 of the Florida Youth ChalleNGe Academy waved good-bye and danced as the stage descended below the auditorium and everyone filed outside to await their graduates which were greeted with hugs, kisses, tears, and congratulations. I don't think you could have found a happier and prouder group in all of Florida at that point!
|FLYCA Class #18 waves good-bye as the stage descends|
After giving the daughter I hadn't seen in almost a year a big huge hug, I had her pose so that I could get a picture of her big smile with her brand-new high school diploma in hand ...
|A proud cadet and her diploma|
...and then I got the ex to take a picture of the two of us together and no, I'm not sneering at him - honest!
|A proud Mom and her cadet|
All in all it was a great ceremony and I really couldn't be prouder of Jamie for not just getting her diploma but for persevering and completing the demanding and highly regimented program at FLYCA. Not all of the kids who started the program completed it but Jamie did and for a kid who sometimes has trouble concentrating, that's no mean feat. No matter where she goes from here she can always be proud of the fact that she did it and she did it well. Congratulations again, kiddo, I love you!
|Jamie's official graduation picture|
Before I wrap this up, I want to say thank you to everyone who sent Jamie a card or letter or pictures of Hugh Jackman (!) while she was at the Academy; your thoughtfulness meant a lot to her and helped to make her time there that much easier. And it means a lot to me, too, that you'd take the time to brighten my daughter's life like you did. Thank you! Thank you!