'So touching': Florida principal crafts personal notes for 459 graduates

A Florida high school principal spent the last several months of the school year crafting personalized notes for each of the 459 graduates and left them on their seats to read before receiving their diplomas.

Matanzas High School principal Jeff Reaves scoured through transcripts, emails and used his own personal memories to prepare the notes in time for the June 2 graduation, The Daytona Beach News Journal reported. He wanted to do something special since their last two years in school were marred by the coronavirus pandemic.

"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 newspaper. "I wanted to shine some light on the students and encourage them as they begin their next journey in life."

Reaves said the process was especially beneficial to him as he got a chance to learn more about each student.

"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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Culinary arts teacher Lisa Kittrell told the newspaper that in 25 years working in education, she’s never seen a principal do anything this personal for the graduating seniors.

"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."

Reaves said he’s always tried to work in something special for each graduating class, by recognizing certain students and through the songs played at commencements.

Last June, the seniors graduated at Daytona International Speedway and the school put customized yard signs made for each student on the football field. It was filmed by a drone.

The response to Reaves’ personalized notes has been positive and he feels humbled by the experience.

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"It was an incredible class of students and I was honored to serve them," Reaves said. "In a sense they lost five quarters. The pandemic started when they were juniors and it impacted their entire senior year."

Parents and teachers have expressed their gratitude to Reaves on the Matanzas High School’s Facebook page.

"It was very sweet and the first I’ve heard of," said Traci Carter in the comments. "This touch(ed) my graduate! Principal Reaves went above and beyond here and my child will never forget him."

Watch FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.