Everyone has experienced those awkward years in life. Usually, someone hits middle school, and for years to come, they hide embarrassing photographs of themselves with braces or wearing something so awful they don’t remember why they had purchased the item. These three seniors braved it all by exposing who they were a few years back and showing how they have grown into mature young women.
Sarasota Military Academy Senior
While standing on the railroad tracks she runs for the Sarasota Military Academy Raiders, Shannon Hunihan, 17, holds a photo of herself when she was 11 years old. She tried out for the Raiders as a freshman and was one of the first female freshmen to make it onto varsity.
“I knew a lot of Raiders in the program, and, in my opinion, they were the coolest people in the school,” Hunihan says. “I came out on summer runs and realized I was good at it. They welcome you into the family, and I have been doing it ever since.”
Hunihan is confident, articulate and a clear leader. She holds the highest rank at Sarasota Military Academy as regimental commander, and her classmates often go to her when they have questions. As a middle school student, she says she was the one most likely to tell on cheaters. Even though this trait did not make her popular, it did help her become the leader she is today.
Applying to: University of Florida, Florida State University, Liberty University and Palm Beach Atlantic University
Future: Hopes to one day become an athletic trainer or physical therapist.
Fun fact: Hunihan has four fake teeth. While playing tag when she was 9 years old, she fell and knocked them out.
Looks forward to: Strengthening relationships with her classmates and investing in the students in the grades below her. She hopes to have everything ready for the class underneath her so that they can have a smoother transition their senior year once she is gone. Hunihan will choose a few students who will follow in her footsteps and lead the student body.
Embarrassing awkward-years experience: At her freshman year lock-in, during which freshmen participate in skits and school-spirit activities, Hunihan was getting ready to perform a skit, when she realized the music on the CD didn’t work. She sang opera and Snoop Dogg with no background music in front of her entire class at a new school. “In middle school, I would have been mortified if that had happened,” Hunihan says.
Cardinal Mooney High Senior
While standing on Cardinal Mooney High’s theater stage, Elizabeth Panagopoulos, 17, holds out a photo of herself when she was 12 years old. A few years back, she could not have imagined herself standing on a stage — let alone performing in front of large audiences.
“Being on stage is on you,” Panagopoulos says. “For me, that’s one place I know I can do my best and have complete confidence.”
Panagopoulos is a theatrical introvert. Despite being reserved, she has been in six shows and has stage-managed one show during her four years at Cardinal Mooney. She constantly challenges herself to do something out of her comfort zone.
As a child, she was shy, but, she says, “Something happened in the middle of sophomore year, when I realized I was tired of being quiet, so I became extremely loud and gained a lot of confidence.”
Applying to: New College of Florida, University of South Florida, University of Florida, The Catholic University of America, Princeton University and Smith College
Future: Hopes to one day become a doctor or biochemical engineer.
Fun fact: Panagopoulos is the oldest of 14 cousins.
Looks forward to: Building relationships with her teachers.“As you get older, relationships change, and relationships change with teachers. It’s nice to walk in and just sit down and start learning. I really appreciate that now I can just go.”
Embarrassing awkward-years experience: Panagopoulos’ classmates told the boy whom she liked in middle school that she had a crush on him. She was mortified and learned the girls were not her friends.
Riverview High School Senior
Erica Tenorio, 17, holds a photograph of herself taken when she was 12 years old at a friend’s sleepover. She wears her JROTC uniform in front of the Riverview High School pole vault pit. Tenorio is the JROTC executive officer, which means she is second in command, and she does the pole vault on the Riverview High School’s track and field team. JROTC is her favorite class, because, “I have to be a leader but also a student, so I get the best of both worlds.”
Tenorio has been described as too mature for her age. She is serious about her goals and ambitions.
“I like to be responsible and on time,” she says.
As a child, she was outgoing and energetic and had a lot of friends at school. Since middle school, she says, “I have definitely learned my boundaries with everyone being my friend.” She has learned to be more cautious with the people she trusts.
Tenorio is also an adrenaline junkie and says that pole vaulting at Riverview High School helps her tap into that rush every time.
Applying to: Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University and University of South Florida
Future: Hopes to one day become the first Latin American female president.
Fun fact: Tenorio loves doing puzzles.
Looks forward to: Grad Bash, when seniors from all around the United States go to an amusement park for a night and ride all of the rides. This year, Grad Bash will take place at Universal Studios in Orlando.
Embarrassing awkward-years experience: Tenorio says her worst fashion trend in middle school was wearing pants that unzipped into capris. “I used to wear those all the time,” she says. “They were Army green and my only pair, but they were my favorites.”