LAUREL HILL — Fist bumps and high fives were plentiful in Debra Adams' classroom Friday evening as the 34 members of the Laurel Hill School Class of 2013 prepared for their graduation ceremony.
As senior adviser Jennifer Franklin helped Garrett Alford tie his bow tie, Nichole Bailey assisted her classmate Heath Stewart adjust his Beta Club stole.
Robert Hand, who delivered the magna cum laude address, paced the room, contemplating his future, both short- and long-term.
"I'm planning to live for a very long time," he said. "Since I have braces, I plan to stay around here and go to Northwest Florida State College and get my associate's degree."
Robert said his ultimate goal is to study video game design at another university after he leaves NWFSC.
Dakota Presley, who offered the cum laude address, will join Robert at Northwest Florida State, where he wants to get a pre-med AA before heading to Florida A&M University's pharmacy school in Crestview.
Like many of his classmates, Dakota has attended Laurel Hill School since kindergarten, "but I haven't been here every day like Chelsea."
Chelsea Smith received a special award from Okaloosa County School District superintendent Mary Beth Jackson, a Laurel Hill School alumna, for having had perfect attendance throughout her 13-year academic careers.
During his address, Dakota told his classmates their graduation is "a time of celebration and happiness."
"Although it seems as though we have finally crossed the finish line, this is only the beginning of our lives," Dakota said. "Among the crowd of students anxiously waiting to receive their diplomas, are the future faces of our armed forces, our workforce, and our community."
"Graduation means not only that we are becoming adults, but we are now also full-fledged members of society," Robert said during his speech.
After Garrett and Samantha Holboke delivered the ceremony's closing remarks, the Class of 2013 departed the gymnasium, many realizing their graduation was the last time they would all be together.
But they took with them Dakota's words of encouragement.
"This is not a time of sadness, because we can always find each other on Facebook," he said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.