Miami Carol City High School

Miami Carol City High School students walk the stage during the school's 54th commencement ceremony last Friday.

As Miami Carol City High School celebrates its 2019 graduating class, students and administrators say a sense of family, unity and awareness was evident throughout the school year. The commencement ceremony, the 54th in the school’s history, took place at Florida International University’s Ocean Bank Convocation Center last Friday.

In the first full school year after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, safety concerns were a distant thought.

“It feels great graduating from a family,” said Arianna Lestrade, “because that’s exactly what Miami Carol City was, a family.”

Arianna said she never felt unsafe because school leaders such as District 1 Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board Member Steve Gallon and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho were often present to inform the students about the different safety measures that were put in place. “They made sure they gave us the security adjustments they made to the schools,” she said.

Last summer, the school system added more than 100 police officers, 3,000 cameras and an ID management system as part of its security upgrades for the 2018-19 school year. The upgrades are to comply with legislation passed following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school massacre Feb. 14, 2018. A state mandate requires officers on every public school campus. The schools system had to put an officer in the 389 public county schools.

“I think the No. 1 lesson was a sense of awareness,” said Gallon, of this school year’s security measures. The school system will not be able to totally stop poor decisions but student safety is always a top priority for the district, Gallon said. “I think our heightened sense of awareness, our heightened sense of proactivity, our development of new strategic and innovative ways to address school security is something that has been transformational since Parkland.”

Students praised the family environment present at Miami Carol City High School throughout the school year. The total student population is around 1,000.

“I felt loved,” said Ka’Sharie Jordan. She noted the effort teachers, counselors and administrators made to make sure she excelled academically. “All the teachers were there for me," Ka’Sharie said. “Even when I wanted to give up they were there by my side.”

About half of the graduating seniors will attend a college or university in the fall, said first-year Principal Adrena Williams. Close to $3.1 millions in scholarships were awarded to the 2019 graduating class, she said.

In her first year, Williams was able to expand Carol City's dual enrollment classes through partnerships with schools such as St. Thomas University, Florida Memorial University and Florida International University, she said. She plans to add more advanced placement classes to the courses already taught at the school.

“We are rising,” Williams said.

Overall, nearly 22,000 students are scheduled to graduate in 2019.

The commencement ceremonies of Miami Northwestern and Miami Jackson senior high schools are scheduled for Wednesday, June 5 and will take place at the Adrienne Arsht Center at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m, respectively.

Booker T. Washington Senior High will also hold its commencement ceremony at the Adrienne Arsht Center on Thursday, June 6 at 10 a.m.

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