PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The first Palm Beach County high school graduation of the year is officially in the books at the South Florida Fairgrounds.
Students at West Boca Raton Community High School walked across the stage Monday to earn their diplomas.
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"It's not words when I say the best part of West Boca Raton High School is now leaving. It is you," Principal Edmund Capitano told hundreds of proud graduates.
Capitano spoke Monday about everything this special group of students has overcome.
"You suffered with the students and families and victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas," Capitano said. "In 2020, your West Boca Raton High School was shut down due to a worldwide pandemic."
The theme of overcoming obstacles weaved through the ceremony Monday.
"This class is resilient," said Superintendent Mike Burke of the School District of Palm Beach County. "They’ve persevered. They really appreciate the opportunity to be in person for the ceremony."
See how Palm Beach County graduations have returned to normal:
The message of resilience took on a new meaning this year for valedictorian Alex Stone.
"I urge all of you to live life to the fullest," Stone told his fellow graduates.
Stone is one of 161 Presidential Scholars across the country, top of his class and heading to Harvard. But what he's most proud of can't be found on a diploma.
"With the passing away of my father, just keeping myself on the right track and keeping myself moving forward, just like he would have wanted me to," Stone said.
Stone lost his dad suddenly just seven months ago.
"I'm in awe of him," said Susan Stone, Alex's mother. "I’m so proud of him with my husband, his father passing away in October, right at a pivotal time for him when he was applying for colleges his senior year."
But Stone never gave up his dream to be number one in his class.
"This was the goal I set for myself from freshman year," Stone said. "I was trying to become valedictorian. And when they announced it, I just, so many emotions, so much relief."
An emotional day after a long and winding road to get to this moment.
"We grew to understand that it's OK not to be OK," Capitano said. "And that we'll get through our times together as one family."
Forever the class of 2022.
Monday's graduation was just the beginning. There are 28 Palm Beach County high graduations at the Expo Center at the South Florida Fairgrounds. The School District of Palm Beach County will start doing three a day until all the students have graduated.
You can see the full graduation schedules from all of our local counties by clicking these links: