Destin Marlins get a 'cheering' sendoff from family and friends

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

In a gym packed with family and friends, a little more than 200 eighth graders got a sendoff from Destin Middle School Tuesday morning during their “8th Grade Celebration.” 

Destin Middle School Principal Belinda Small welcomed the guests and bragged on the students as well as the parents that have helped the students make it through the past three to four years, including a pandemic. 

"It’s been unprecedented times with unprecedented opportunities and unprecedented results,” Small said. 

Destin Middle School Principal Belinda Small presents the Principal Award to Carson Fayard during the 8th Grade Celebration Tuesday morning.

This was Smalls' first year at the helm of Destin Middle. 

“Since I’ve been here, I have not ever heard, ‘I can’t do it,’ ‘I won't do it’ … these words are not in the vocabulary of these kids,” she said. 

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Small also described them as having a “quiet confidence.” 

Following Small, Okaloosa County Commission Mel Ponder livened things up a bit when he encouraged those in attendance to send the students off with a cheer. 

“This is a big deal in our community. As a community we get to cheer for you,” he said. 

Okaloosa County Commissioner Mel Ponder gives a shout out to the 8th grade class of Destin Middle and encourages the crowd gathered to do the same.

Ponder then counted down from three and the gymnasium roared in cheers for the students. 

“Let’s go,” he yelled. “Did you ya'll feel that?” Ponder asked the students. 

Ponder went on to challenge the students to be an influence and influencer of others. 

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“This is your time to rise up and shine … you are world changers … your next season awaits you,” he said. 

Up next, top students were recognized in their core subjects such as history, math, science, language arts and electives. 

Lena De La Cruz was the recipient of the Magnificent Marlin Award.

Students were recognized for making all “A" and “A/B" honor rolls as well as perfect attendance. 

Eighth grade teacher Lindsay Pritchett presented the Take Stock in Children Scholarship to Kiara Marquez.  

Lt. Col. Jim Wood presented the American Legion Award on behalf of Destin American Legion Post 296. Recipients of the award were Casey Lechner and Anabelle Shackelford. 

Athletic Director Ron Griffiths presented the Magnificent Marlin Award to two students who excelled in leadership, positivity and integrity. Lena De La Cruz and Charlie Frankfurt were the recipients. 

Charlie Frankfurt was a recipient of the Magnificent Marlin Award.

Griffiths described Cruz as a “bright shining light.” She has been in the Marlin band for three years. He said her teachers described her as a “positive role model, appreciative and gracious … and some who strives to do her best.” 

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Frankfurt has earned nine varsity letters at Destin Middle, playing tennis, basketball and weightlifting. He has been an A-student in the classroom since kindergarten. 

Griffiths said Frankfurt also got a perfect score on the civics portion of the FSA test. 

Kiara Marquez is presented the Take Stock in Children Scholarship by teacher Lindsay Pritchett.

The final award of the morning was the Principal Award given out by Principal Small. The recipient of this award was Carson Fayard. 

While at Destin Middle, Fayard received 12 varsity letters in volleyball, basketball, track and field and weightlifting. 

This past season she led the basketball team to a county championship, averaging 23 points per game, even after breaking out a couple of her teeth in the process.  

Fayard finished her career at Destin Middle as the “all-time leading scorer with 750 points,” Small said, noting the hard work she puts in on and off the court. 

Lt. Col. James Wood presented the American Legion award to Casey Lechner and Anabelle Shackelford.

Fayard also has made all A’s since kindergarten and remains “humble and kind,” Small said. 

The celebration wrapped up with all students being recognized by their homeroom teachers. 

Destin Middle School recognized more than 200 eighth graders on Tuesday during the celebration.