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Lakewood Ranch Mini Mustangs program helps students grow and become teachers

Congratulations to the Class of 2024 Mini Mustangs!

The Lakewood Ranch High School Pre-K class received their diplomas in front of a large audience of proud families and high school students, who are learning lessons about early childhood education. 

It's the only high school to offer this unique opportunity. 

Delaney Riggins Shackleford, Early Childhood Education Teacher, was happy her students could be there to celebrate.

The four-year program allows seniors to become certified and eligible to teach in a preschool upon graduation. 

"I graduated from Lakewood Ranch in 2014," Delaney said. "I was in this program as a student teacher, and that's what really made me want to become a teacher."


After a short ceremony, everyone enjoyed breakfast, cake and the last few moments with friends. 

Next year, there will be new adventures for them in elementary schools throughout Manatee County.

As the event winds down, students remove their green and white caps and gowns, and look around to say one last goodbye to their Pre-K teacher. 

It was an emotional day for Sara Lay because she watched these children grow all year. 

They repaid her with big hugs and "thank you's" as the Mini Mustangs galloped away into the summer.

Who knows? Maybe one day they'll be the ones receiving hugs from their students on graduation day. 

Students participating in the Early Childhood Education program at Lakewood Ranch High School are learning from someone who has walked in their shoes.

We recently spoke with Delaney Riggins-Shackleford at the Mini Mustangs graduation about why the program is so important for inspiring tomorrow's teachers.