Somerset Island Prep holds 3rd floating commencement

Fifteen graduates of Somerset Island Prep High School in Key West throttle across Key West Harbor on jet skis to collect diplomas from Principal Tom Rompella, also on a jet ski. What started as a COVID precaution has become a cherished tradition for the charter high school. LARRY BLACKBURN/Keys Weekly

Most high school graduates don’t wear life jackets with their cap and gown. But then, most high school graduates don’t ride jet skis to collect their diplomas. 

Somerset Island Prep, a charter high school in Key West, held its third jet-ski graduation ceremony on May 20. The novel idea started as a COVID precaution for social distancing and has since become a cherished tradition. This year’s ceremony started on land near the Sunset Pier at Ocean Key Resort, where proud families gathered for the valedictorian speech and to watch the floating festivities. 

Graduates boarded jet skis and throttled across Key West Harbor to collect their diploma from Principal Tom Rompella, who conveyed them from aboard his own jet ski with a mechanical grabbing device. 

Somerset Island Prep is a free, public charter high school with about 80 students, increasing to 100 next year, located on Flagler Avenue.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.