By Matt Wiley

Valedictorian Allyson Bell
Valedictorian Allyson Bell

Congratulations to the Class of 2013 from Freedom and Paul R. Wharton High Schools, as you shift your tassels and move into the world after high school.

During graduation ceremonies on June 3 and 4 inside the Expo Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds (located off U.S. Hwy. 301), more than 1,000 New Tampa-area seniors crossed the stage to collect their respective diplomas.

On June 3, during a 1 p.m. ceremony, 578 Wharton High seniors filled the crowded auditorium dressed in the school’s dark, navy blue.

Principal Bradley Woods addressed the crowd, commending the 2013 class for their more than $6.5 million in scholarships to schools including Harvard, Auburn University, New York University and many more.

Collectively, Wharton’s 2013 class compiled more than 3,000 community service hours and took more than 1,100 Advanced Placement (AP) tests.

“Four years ago, I had the pleasure of welcoming this class as ninth graders,” Woods said. “Today, they leave as one, as graduates.”

Salutatorian Harold Shaw, Jr. followed Woods’ address. For more about Shaw’s speech, please see page 1.

“Always wear clean underwear,” announced Wharton Valedictorian Allyson Bell, who graduated with a 7.39 GPA and will be attending the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania in the fall, before listing off dozens of other lines of advice, including, “Always take advice with a grain of salt, but trust me about the underwear. We are so much more alive than we realize. We went through this journey together.”

 Seto Sisters Take Top Honors At Freedom

The following day, during a 4:30 p.m. ceremony inside the same auditorium, Freedom High’s Class of 2013 marched in and took their seats, adorned in blue and white caps and gowns, the white worn by honor graduates with a GPA of 4.0 or higher.

“My years at Freedom have been challenging,” said Salutatorian Samantha Seto, who graduated with a 6.74 GPA and will be attending Wake Forest University in North Carolina in the fall. “But, at the same time, rewarding. Life is about overcoming obstacles.”

Following her speech, her sister, Class of 2013 Valedictorian Sarah Seto approached the podium. Touting a 6.91 GPA, she will be attending Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.

“My high school years have been the most exciting of my life,” said Sarah. “Many of us have questions and concerns about the future, but that’s all natural. Ask, what kind of positive difference can I make in the lives of others?”

Freedom principal David Sheppard closed out the speeches.

“Graduation is one of the most significant experiences in our lives,” he said. “This year, our (447) seniors have been awarded more than $6 million in scholarships to schools including Wake Forest University, Johns Hopkins and UCLA.”

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