The Keys Weekly is pleased to honor the following senior graduates of Marathon High School. They represent the full spectrum of students — not just the standout athletes and scholars — but the other types of students who make this such a spirited and well-rounded class. The students were chosen by the faculty at MHS with best wishes; the Weekly also offers its congratulations to the Class of 2018.
When Annie Gracy goes to University of Florida this fall, she’ll have plenty of familial support in place. Her older sister, Hannah, will be in her second year of school and Annie will also have her twin sister, Abbie, right by her side.
“Hannah will be in an apartment, and Abbie and I will be living on campus, but not together. Well, the same hall, but with separate roommates. We’ll be able to stake out our independence a little bit,” Gracy said.
Gracy has the highest GPA at Marathon High School. What is it?
“Oh, I should have memorized this. I’m not really sure, but it has been going up in the second semester. I think it’s a 4.63, somewhere in that ballpark,” she said.
Wow. With her aptitude at scholarship, Gracy would be welcome in any department, but she said she’s leaning toward the history and English track, maybe political science.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been watching the news with my parents, and recognizing women in politics,” Gracy said. “I think it would be a cool career track.”
Gracy credits her parents with her success in school. Her father is an educator and would often lead impromptu geography or history lessons with his three girls.
“But having Abbie there with me has been the most helpful. If she’s doing her homework, I can’t sit on the couch doing nothing,” Annie said of her sister. “That’s been a huge help.”
In addition to her studies, Gracy has also been a valuable member of the soccer and cross country teams. She played saxophone for six years, too. And the last book she read, recommended to her by teacher Jessie Schubert, was the “Kite Runner.”
In the four years of high school, Natalie Mendoza played four sports. Volleyball and soccer all four years, and weighlifting and tennis for the last two years of high school.
With a grade point average of 4.2 she’s headed off to Florida State University.
“I want to study international affairs with a minor in business management,” Mendoza said. Her ultimate plan is to become a part of an NGO — or non-governmental agency involved in charitable works. “I get to travel, and I get to help people,” Mendoza said.
Balancing sports and academics wasn’t easy. “It was pretty hard. I’m not going to lie,” she said.
Mendoza managed the demands on her time by taking advantage of every extra minute — working ahead whenever there was downtime in class, and staying in the classroom at lunch to do homework.
“Even on the bus home from a game, I would be doing my homework,” she said.
The pressure, though, worked. She learned to use her time wisely. Still, she knows the key to her heart.
“Soccer. I love soccer,” she said.
She will spend two years at Valencia Community College before transitioning to University of South Florida.
“My plan is to major in biology and minor in photography,” Lera said. Her ultimate plan is to become a veterinarian, but to continue to feed her interest in the photographic arts.
“I started out in drawing classes, working in graphite in my sketch book,” she said. “And then on my 13th birthday my dad gave me his Nikon camera.”
Her other inspiration is an aunt who has had the honor of showing at a gallery in Wynwood, the up-and-coming arts center of South Florida. “The gallery owner asked me to bring some of my prints, too, and so I did.”
While Lera has shot many high school football games, she’s most proud of a piece she created using two high school friends, who are twins. She presented the duality of their natures by painting one in color, and the other in black and white and then photographing the two holding a frame.
“It was my favorite piece,” she said.
Landon Bish moved to Marathon from upstate New York with his family three years ago. In the fall, he will be headed to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, Florida.
“I want to learn about rocketry and computer systems,” said Bish. “My goal is to work with SpaceX or NASA.”
It’s been a long held dream, he said. So, it’s not surprising his art doesn’t look like anybody else’s. Specifically, Bish creates computer games. He’s created a couple — he calls them “side scrollers,” like the popular game Mario Kart, or point and click. At this stage he’s more concerned with the functionality of his creative ideas.
“You get them to work first, then you add the layer in the art aspect of it,” he said.
In St. Petersburg, Ariana Patterson will have the opportunity not only to study biology, but also to broaden her knowledge of stagecraft.
“I think I can possibly weave in some singing lessons, or dancing lessons if they are available at my college,” said the senior, headed off to University of South Florida, St. Petersburg campus. “Whatever I do, however, I want to be involved with the community theater — variety show or directing, things like that.”
Patterson has been a key player in Marathon High School’s drama club. She directed a one-act show this year, and has choreographed all the musical numbers of the past two years.
Her favorite moment of all, she said, was when the curtain went up on “Legally Blonde” earlier this year. It was a great moment, years in the making, for the senior who had the lead role as Elle Woods.
“There was a lot of hard work that went before that, but it was just a good moment,” Patterson said.
Her silliest role was as Sally Brown in “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.”
“It was a nice counterpart to all the darker characters I played in the musicals,” she said.
If you’ve met Anthony Proudnik once, you will never forget his voice. His deep tones make any room vibrate. That voice landed him his first role on the Marathon High School stage.
“I never auditioned for the role. But Ms. Cox like my voice for it,” he said. The part was Egeus in “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” After the acting bug bit in his sophomore year, Proudnik never looked back and has delighted MHS audiences with his comedic talents.
Proudnik is headed to University of Florida to study computer engineering with a minor either in music or electrical engineering.
“I’ve been in band all my life, it seems, playing either the saxophone or tuba. But the idea of music production really interests me,” he said. The four years of higher learning certainty, and a graduate degree is also a possibility.
“I really enjoyed the drama club. I liked the social aspect of it. I made a lot of friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise,” Proudnik said. “And the camaraderie on the day of the show is just amazing. Everybody keeps complimenting one another and boosting each other’s heads. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.”
This summer, Proudnik will be traveling to Belarus to visit family, and will also take part in the senior trip to the Bahamas.
In three short weeks, April Sullivan will be an official student of University of North Florida.
“It’s four days of orientation first, then I start school,” she said. “The plan is to study nursing.”
She said the Jacksonville university, part of the state system, really appealed to her.
“It’s located on a natural preserve, so it’s beautiful. And it’s also a small school, which I like,” she said. It’s possible she joins the athletic band at UNF, giving her the ability to play at basketball games both at home and away.
Sullivan has been playing the flute since the sixth grade. “I have always been able to count on Mr. Rayhill. He’s taught me a lot about music and about growing as a person,” she said.
When Sullivan heads off to school, she said she will miss Marathon’s tight-knit community and seeing all her friends on a regular basis.
Alex Pabon is headed off to Florida State University with a big service heart. Since her freshman year, she’s been volunteering. Mainly she does work alongside her family, many of whom are members of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
Although she’s a Conch through-and-through, Alex joined the Class of 2018 as a freshman at Marathon High School after attending private school in the Upper Keys.
“As soon as I started school in Marathon, it made it much easier to do more volunteer work,” she said.
The majority of Pabon’s volunteer work was done alongside the sheriff’s office — doing clean ups and painting over graffiti. But she’s also participated in clothing drives and collecting donations for the women’s shelter in the Keys.
“One year we collected hundreds of pairs of shoes as a fundraiser for the local animal shelter. The shoes were sent to developing countries to be repaired and sold locally, a way to create jobs,” she said.
After Irma, Pabon went straight to work. She coordinated donations from friends outside the Keys to be distributed to needy families in the Keys.
“We filled boxes and backpacks with things like canned foods and school supplies,” she said.
Pabon has racked up more than 300 official volunteer hours, plus many more that are not on the books.
At the tender age of 18, Milly Cruz has worked more jobs than most adults. She started out at 14 years old as a hostess at Island Fish Co. Soon she added clerking in the Cruz Morato accounting offices. She worked at Sweet Savannah’s for a while at the same time she was a receptionist at Coconut Cay. She recently joined the team at Publix and is up to 40 hours a week.
Over the summer, before she heads off to University of Florida, she will be … you guessed it, working.
“I am trying to save as much money as possible before I go off to school,” she said.
Her plan is to study business and her recent experience at Publix has cemented the decision.
“I want to work for a large corporation. I like the structure,” she said, adding that her dream is to become the CEO of her own business one day. She is inspired by her father.
“My dad was only 16 years old when I was born, and he is my inspiration. Obstacles have never stopped him from working hard. I get my work ethic from him,” Cruz said.
Cruz was chosen to give the speech on the future at the Class of 2018’s baccalaureate. She quoted author John Greene. “You get a weird feeling when you leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people that you love, but you’ll miss the person you are at this place in time, because you’ll never be this way again.” She continued in her own words, “But as our senior year ends, you must not forget that there are far better things ahead than any we leave behind. What feels like the end is really just the start of a new beginning.”
When Lucas Ponzoa was just a young lad of about 12 years old, he experienced one of the best “fights” of his life — fighting a fish, of course.
“I shot a 66-pound cobia in really cloudy waters one day when I was out with Clay and Drake Daniels. Then the sharks started chasing us, so we got in the boat and continued to fight. We were so scrawny back then, it took us forever,” he recalls, laughing.
He’s gone on to land other big ones, of course, like the 70-pound grouper he shot in the Bahamas not too long ago. It will be hard to be away from the waters he loves so much, but he’s headed into the interior of Florida to Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville.
“I want to study business for four years, the last two at University of Florida, and then come home to run my dad’s guiding business. One day I want it to be mine,” Ponzoa said.
If given the choice between fishing topside (on the boat) or underwater (spearfishing), Ponzoa always chooses the latter. It’s … active.
“It’s boring to just sit there. I like going down, finding the fish, chasing them, seeing the coral and all the other animals down there,” he said.
This kid loves working. And when he’s not working, he loves fishing and Marathon.
“Oh, man, I think the first time I sat down in the crane I was probably like seven years old,” he said. When the Keys Weekly reached him on Memorial Day he was fresh off the job — setting pilings for another project for the family business, Marathon Seawall and Docks.
“My goal is to go to school, and then come home and take over the business,” Culmer said. He’s headed to Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville to study business administration.
Like most Marathon kids, he gets his thrills fishing. Culmer likes the big game best — offshore hunting for gamefish like big mahi mahi. Although that one 40-pound cobia on 12-pound test was quite a challenge too.
“I got it near the boat and reached out to gaff it and fell in the water,” Culmer said. That fish tasted very excellent, he said. When he’s in Gainesville, Culmer will indulge in his other love — hunting; probably deer or hogs.
For Marathon High School senior Logan Neller, there are two distinct paths, but they are not that different. His first choice is to join the Coast Guard. His second is to become a firefighter/EMT.
“My grandfather was a medic in Vietnam,” Neller said. “So I always knew that I wanted to serve in some capacity. I like the Coast Guard because it has great benefits, and I get to be in the position to help people. The same is true for becoming an EMT.”
Neller is an excellent helmsman, and to see his confidence at the wheel is astounding. “I think I was running the boat by myself since I was about 12 years old,” he said. “It’s one of the perks of living down here; we get to experience all the water has to offer.”
He looks forward to protecting the public’s safety in whatever capacity he can. The rest of the time, well, he’ll be fishing, of course. And melting all the hearts of adults with his respectful “Yes, Ma’ams,” and “No, Sirs” that can fit in one sentence. He is the gentleman of the year, according to an anonymous source.
This Marathon High School graduate is going to set the world on fire … or at least power it by harnessing the energy of the sun and wind.
“I want to become a renewable resource engineer — solar energy, wind turbines, all that,” Goheen said.
And the best place to do it isn’t that far away — Florida Keys Community College.
“Even if I go somewhere else first, I’ll end up right back here because FKCC has the classes and testing and certifications that I need,” Goheen said.
Goheen said this field of study is an opportunity to “save the world” — he’s only half joking — but also the up-and-coming type of skill, service and product that the country wants and needs.
“It’s going to be really big, and I think the job market will be wide open,” he said.
Although he plans on working for someone else first, he definitely wants to start his own business sometime in the not-too-distant future. “I think I need to earn some money first, and I will probably minor in business at the same time,” he said.
Audrey Matthis is headed off to University of South Florida in Tampa for the fall semester. She’ll study math with an eye on becoming an actuary, an applied science mathematician, or a teacher.
“My two favorite classes were AP Biology and AP Calculus,” she said. “In biology, Ms. Cox pushed us to learn and it was the first class that was about understanding, not regurgitating information. And Ms. Heyl’s AP Calculus was beyond challenging. It was either learn or drown.”
Matthis is graduating with a 3.9 GPA. She was a part of the swim team for six years, weightlifting team for two, and track and field for one year. Since her freshman year, and before, she has held two jobs simultaneously, ranging from selling ice cream at Sweet Savannah’s, to bussing tables at the Cracked Conch to clerking in Sue Corbin’s accounting office.
She said probably the best lessons of high schools were all about the relationships she formed and learning about her ability to change. Many of those moments came interning in the school’s front office — whether it was taking the teachers’ elementary-age school children to the bus stop or just chatting with Mrs. Jackie Gonzalez.
“In high school I learned to talk to adults and make friends with them. Murph taught me more than anyone. Teachers have a whole different level of wisdom. They’ve been around kids our age for decades, and they know what you’re going through one way or another.”
Matthis said she looks forward to living in Tampa and all the recreational and job opportunities there. She said she will miss all the familiar faces in Marathon.
“In Tampa, it will be back to square one … a fresh start,” she said.
This Marathon High School graduate is going places — first stop, Gainesville. She intends to become a physical therapist and one day work for a major professional sports team. It’s no wonder this gifted athlete would choose a career so closely aligned with her own talents.
“Let’s see, I did soccer for three years, cheerleading for four, weightlifting for two years, track and field for two years, and cross country when I was in sixth grade,” she said.
The first year Marathon High School had a track and field team, McKnight was the only girl to represent the school at the state meet. “I ran the 200 meter dash. It was a little confusing; all of the other girls seemed to know what they were doing!”
McKnight has her favorites at Marathon High School. Jamie Buhyoff, the AVID teacher, is always at the top of the list.
“She’s like a mother to us. She’s so sweet and she takes care of us,” she said. Then Jessie Schubert: “I go to his class like ten times a day just to talk to him.” And Paula Thompson: “She always tells me it’s going to be okay.”
Her family has been just as inspirational. From her mother she learned to be kind and to push for results. From her dad, to work hard. From her brother, Xavier, how to handle the spotlight.
At the baccalaureate ceremony, McKnight and Audrey Matthis were chosen to give a speech on friendship. She said, “Friends are the siblings God never gave us. Friendship means that I will be there to pick you up when you fall, after I finish laughing.”
Although she has an active social life and a challenging work schedule outside of school, McKnight’s favorite place is still at home.
“I like sleeping, and eating and watching TV. I am a homebody!”
Congratulations to all the graduates!
Yan Robert Carache Vaillant
Julissa De La Cruz
Marisol Genco Rodriguez
Cesar Gomez Buitrago
Anne Marie Gracy