Brandon High School Principal Jeremy Klein (right) with School Superintendent Van Ayres, in front of one of many door and window wrappings aimed to instill school spirit.

Jeremy Klein at Brandon High School in May said goodbye to his first class of seniors, who entered as freshmen the same year he first became a school principal, and the same year the coronavirus forced at-home and hybrid instruction.

It was a new dawn for both Klein and his freshmen, who on the first day of school in August received an ‘infinity’ bracelet from their principal. It welcomed them to the final leg of their respective four-year journeys at the storied school on Victoria Street.

“You are a senior!” read the card that accompanied the bracelet, sent on behalf of the school’s faculty and staff. “As you get ready to embark upon this exciting new adventure, remember to dream big, work hard, surround yourself with amazing people, and make some magical new memories.” Most important, the incoming seniors were asked to “never forget to rise above the limits you think you know, and release the infinity within you to experience the possibilities of your future.”

Flash forward to the final days of their senior year, as Klein said he invited his “kiddos” to meet with him in small groups over the course of many days, for a final round of “Klein time.” The seniors were asked to reflect on their high school days, the good and not so good, and to offer what they would change if they could as principal for a day. Also, to select one word to describe their high school experience.

‘’I heard everything from words like ‘exciting’ and ‘eventful’ and ‘perseverance’ to words like ‘stressful’ and ‘chaotic,’” Klein said. “What I appreciated is that they were speaking their truth and how they felt about that.”

The principal intends to use those words in his speech to graduates at their graduation ceremony on Friday, May 24, at the Florida State Fairgrounds, and then finish his speech with the words he so often uttered at Brandon High every school day: “Rock it out.”

That Klein has had a great influence on Brandon High is apparent not only in his actions with students but also in his drive to oversee the beautification of the school, which traces its roots to the first and only school in Brandon. The Brandon school, for students in grades one through 12, opened in 1914 where McLane Middle School stands today. Brandon High at 1101 Victoria St. opened in 1972.

That school, in Klein’s time, has fresh paint, new landscaping and turf, new paving, new bathrooms, new cafeteria tables (some sporting the Brandon High eagle mascot) and new window and door wrappings aimed to instill school spirit. Coming this summer and winter, respectively, will be a new football field and track as well as a remodeled media center.

As for the academics, Klein said his senior class started the school year with 79 and 67 students still needing to meet their math and reading benchmarks, respectively. Historically, Klein said, those numbers could be in the triple digits. In the days leading up to graduation, he added, those numbers had fallen to seven and six, respectively.

“I think I’m most proud of that because they started their freshman year in a pandemic,” Klein said.

The year that opened with a bracelet and a card asking students to “soar to greatness” ended with the seniors receiving a copy of the school’s alma mater and an eagle pin they were asked to wear at graduation.

“This is a keepsake from me to you,” said the principal, who every day told his “wonderful humans” to “rock it out.” From pandemic to diploma, Klein said, the class of 2024 has given us “a lot of food for thought.”

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