Past, present and future: High school seniors unearth memories in Otis Mason time capsule

Ah, 2010. It was a year when Angry Birds flew onto the radar, the silly band trend annoyed teachers, and Taylor Swift ruled the airwaves.


It was also the time a group of rising sixth-graders graduated from Otis Mason Elementary School, no doubt with little idea how quickly the next seven years would pass.

But there they were, Otis Mason’s Class of 2010, back at their first alma mater on Wednesday afternoon to reminisce with each other, teachers and administrators as they planned for their next milestone: graduation from high school.

The group of more than two dozen seniors also had a job to do on their return to the elementary school. The time capsule students packed and sealed seven years ago — filled with pop culture references, personal mementos, and memories of their time as Manatees — had to be opened on the eve of their high school graduation, as has become a tradition at the school over the last 12 years.

The time capsule boxes used to be buried on the outside campus, said Chris Hollister, a physical education teacher at Otis Mason who coordinates what the school calls its “Senior Social.”

“We would end up tearing up the property trying to find where they were at,” Hollister said.

Many students said they couldn’t remember what they had put in the box seven years before.

“I think I put a stuffed animal and a $5 bill,” said Lauren Erwin, a senior at Pedro Menendez who will be attending Florida Southern College this fall.

Why $5?

“Because when you’re a little kid, $5 seems like a lot of money,” Erwin said.

“I think I put something with Hannah Montana in there,” ventured Maria Russeri, who after graduating from Menendez will enroll at St. Johns River State College.

Other relics unveiled were more personal, like the “letters to my future self” that were penned by pre-teens and read back by young adults with a lot more experience and perspective under their belts. The comparison made for more than a few laughs around the tables where students gathered. Other letters, written at the time by students’ parents brought a few tears.

Hollister also encouraged the soon-to-be graduates to share some of their favorite memories of their time at Otis Mason, for example, watching the holiday movie “The Polar Express” in pajamas in the auditorium, as well as their future plans, like that triplets Zachary, Adam and Bryce Brandvold will all be attending Mercer University, in Macon, Georgia, in the fall.

“They still can’t separate us,” joked Zachary Brandvold, “but they’re trying.”

Other career tracks mentioned by theseniors included nursing, mechanics, business, computer science, engineering, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Also in attendance at the time capsule ceremony were Otis Mason principal Nigel Pillay, current and former Otis Mason teachers, school board member Bill Mignon and the honorary Otis Mason, the school’s namesake, who encouraged students to “never forget to look back and thank those who helped you get to this point.”