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North High: Rising above the storm

School weathers challenging year

May 17, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

On Sunday evening at Alico Arena, seniors from North Fort Myers High School will walk the aisle, accept their diplomas, and start a new chapter of their lives.

Suffice it to say, it was a challenging school year. Two weeks were lost to Hurricane Irma in September, while the tragic mass shooting in Parkland in February created a new sense of anxiety among students.

The student body, with the help of the community and school faculty and administrators, was able to overcome and become stronger in the process, said Principal Debbie Diggs, who finished her second year leading North.

"It was an unusual year with Irma. We got off to a great start and then Irma hit and it put us back. We had to do a lot of work to put us back on track, and then the safety issues in the second issues," Diggs said. "The North kids continue to thrive and amaze me and even as we near the end the kids are going hard and heavy."

With Irma, many students, parents and volunteers came out in force and helped get the school cleaned up, especially the athletic fields, which were hit very hard.

"We were out of school for two weeks, but there were a lot of service organizations who came out. Kids really got involved in helping the community," Diggs said. "Once we got back, it was a matter of making up time, so days that were going to be half days or off days became makeup days. It made things more hectic, but the kids stepped up to the challenge."

Following the school shooting in Parkland, where 17 were killed and another 17 wounded, the North staff also worked to help their students make sense of it all and give all the support they needed.

"We have a staff that is very concerned for our kids, and they are as much in tune with their emotional well-being as they are academically," Diggs said. "As a principal you're always thinking about improving safety and when something happens, you rethink things."

North students took up the fight along with their fellow students who witnessed tragedy firsthand, becoming more politically involved than ever before.

"For some kids, they went back to their regular routine and it faded. We have many kids where this sparked an awareness of how important it is to get involved in their community," Diggs said. "The kids have become very involved in voting and becoming aware of legislative processes and having a voice and being heard."

It was also a school year of tremendous achievement in all facets. The football team had an undefeated regular season, while the girls soccer and softball teams went deep into the state playoffs again.

The JROTC Raiders program topped them all by winning its second straight national championship in October, besting even the military academies nationwide.

Also, Michele Whitener's final musical "Mary Poppins" won numerous awards at the Lee County Theater Awards, while the school as a whole once again was expected to garner accolades as one of the most rigorous high schools in the country.

During scholarship season, senior have been earning college funding left and right, with six Cape Coral Mayors Scholarship winners, five Take Stock in Children recipients and numerous Cape Coral Rotary winners as well, with some being accepted to some of the most prestigious schools in the country.

About 140 students will graduate with summa cum laude honors, one of the highest percentages in Lee County, with more than 420 incoming freshmen expected to replace the new graduates in the fall.

"North continues to shine as one of the best high schools in the nation. Our students continue to be active in academics, athletics, the arts and in community service," Diggs said. "I look forward to more of what the kids have been doing and welcoming the new freshmen as part of the Red Knight family."



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