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Class of ’87 finally walks

Lori Sullivan receives her diploma.A cluster of thunderstorms passed over Baker County the afternoon of May 31 but cleared out in plenty of time to avoid wrecking the Class of 1987’s second graduation ceremony as they did some two-and-half decades before.

About 7 pm several dozen ‘87 graduates or family members of deceased graduates gathered at Memorial Stadium before the same stage that the Class of 2012 would cross the following night.

They heard from former Baker High principal Danny Boutwell, classmates, former schools superintendent Tim Starling and others before their names were called to accept diplomas as a few hundred friends and family cheered them on.

“Aren’t you glad we won’t be called that class anymore,” said ‘87 grad and Macclenny dentist Dr. Margaret Cannon, who welcomed everyone to the event.

She and other speakers reminisced about what high school was like in  the late 1980s. There were no cell phones and no computers, but you still had to pay your past due library fees to receive a diploma, as Mr. Starling reminded them.

See video from the ceremony here.

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Pre-prom ‘shock show’ at BCHS

Colton Butcher, playing a victim in the mock DUI, is tranported by first responders to a nearby ambulance.A high school keg party ended and a young couple drove home in their Jeep. Another couple was heading home, too, but from the movies in a van.

Their vehicles collided head-on, killing the young woman in the Jeep’s passenger seat and seriously injuring the couple in the van. The Jeep’s driver, a young man bloodied from the crash, survived, but was led away in handcuffs after failing a field sobriety test administered by a sheriff’s deputy.

That was the scene laid out before juniors and seniors the morning of May 9 at Baker County High School. It’s a scene that school administrators and faculty hoped wouldn’t be repeated in the coming weeks as students celebrate prom and then graduation.

The mock DUI, as it’s called, is an annual spring event to showcase the tragedies that can result from mixing alcohol and driving.

Last year’s mock DUI, though, was canceled due to a real-life tragedy and the grief-filled aftermath that gripped the high school last spring: the death of senior Rashard Belford. He was killed on April 9, 2011 when a car driven by another young man involved in a fight nearby ran over him in southwest Macclenny.

The 40-minute program, narrated by Sheriff Joey Dobson and organized by the high school’s campus deputy Matt Riegel, included police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who responded to the staged accident as they would normally.

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Teen takes stage at Suwannee River Jam

Maci McDuffie at the 2012 North American Country Music Association Awards in Tennessee on March 15.Teen vocalist Maci McDuffie, an 8th grader at Baker County Middle School, performed at the Suwannee River Jam on May 4-5 in Live Oak along side guitarist Matt Carter, formerly of the band Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

She also performed on the same stage as country music legends like Trace Adkins and Randy Travis.

Ms. McDuffie, 14, secured a spot in the event’s line-up by winning the Bradford County Talent Festival on February 24 and auditioning at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, also in Live Oak.

The Glen St. Mary resident will perform on May 18 and 19 at the 4th annual Boots-n-BBQ event at the Bradford County Fairgrounds to benefit Santé Fe Community College scholarships.

She also won Female Vocalist of the year at the 2012 North American Country Music Association Awards in Tennessee on March 15.

Below is The Press’ interview with Ms. McDuffie via e-mail about her show in Live Oak last weekend and her fledging singing career.

The Press: How would you describe your performance at the Suwannee River Jam?

Maci McDuffie: I feel good about my performance, the crowd was awesome and really into the music. After the performance several people asked for my autograph, which was really cool.

Press: What songs did you sing, what are they about and why did you select them?

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JU coach, former Gator guest speak at Y’s Playmaker awards

The honorees with Mr. Bell.Former Florida Gator and present day Jacksonville University football coach Kerwin Bell was the guest speaker the evening of April 26 at the Playmaker Awards banquet sponsored by the Baker Family YMCA.

Mr. Bell, a native of Mayo, FL, was a walk-on at UF in 1983 and spoke on how a combination of circumstances brought him to the starting slot after he was initially eighth on the depth chart.

“Look at the positive in any situation,” he advised attendees, reflecting on his on-field experience in high school where he led the Layfayette County High School Hornets to a state championship, his four years on the Gators squad and post-graduate professional career in the NFL and CFL.

He said his inspiration for never giving up came from Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford and Johnny Unitas. All initially failed several times before taking their place in history.

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