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Florida Principal Pens Personal Letters for All 459 High School Graduates to 'Be Positive'

People logo People 6/24/2021 Nicholas Rice
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A Florida high school principal recently made graduation extra special for all 459 of his graduating seniors.

Earlier this month, Matanzas High School Principal Jeff Reaves presented each member of the graduating class with a personal, handwritten letter before they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, according to a report from The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Reaves, who became a principal at the Palm Coast school four years ago when the graduating seniors were freshman, dug deep to make each letter unique, sifting through "yearbooks, student files and transcripts," as well as conversations and relationships, per NPR. He wrote the notes from March through graduation day.

a screen shot of a man: "I wanted to shine some light on the students and encourage them as they begin their next journey in life," Matanzas High School Principal Jeff Reaves said © WESH "I wanted to shine some light on the students and encourage them as they begin their next journey in life," Matanzas High School Principal Jeff Reaves said

"I want to be positive for our students, especially in a time where there's a lot of negativity and turmoil in the world," Reaves told the News-Journal. "I wanted to shine some light on the students and encourage them as they begin their next journey in life."

"It was as much for me as them and I got the chance to learn about each student individually," he continued. "It's easy to get caught up in the numbers, but it's the names that really matter. I was doing my part to help them feel connected as a community and have their high school experience to be positive."

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a screen shot of a man: WESH © Provided by People WESH

Lisa Kittrell, a culinary arts teacher at Matanzas High School, told the outlet that in her 15 years at the school, and 25 in education overall, she had never seen a principal do something so sweet for senior students.

"When the little girl, who was sitting in my row at graduation, opened up her note and read it, she went 'Wow, I can't believe he did this and remembered this about me,'" Kittrell said. "It was just so touching that he did that for all of the graduates. It was just so touching."

"It shows he really cares for the students," she added. "It was just very exciting and very moving."

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Parents of the graduating students reacted with similar sentiments, many praising Reaves for taking the time to say goodbye so thoughtfully.

Posting to Matanzas High School's Facebook page, one parent, Traci Carter, called the gesture "very sweet and the first I've heard of," adding, "This touch[ed] my graduate! Principal Reaves went above and beyond here and my child will never forget him."

Another parent, Lisa Kern-Asbill, agreed, writing Reaves "is a wonderful addition to MHS!" as Patty Mill said it was "such a heartfelt gift to each of his students."

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Reacting to the response from the school community, Reaves said he was proud to do something that so many found to be "meaningful."

"It's a sense of accomplishment that we were able to do most things and that was meaningful to seniors and families," the principal said. "It's really about the students, and across our country there are teachers and educators who do things like this to make a great impression on these students."

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