The grandstands were packed, and it was almost standing-room-only as the graduates processed into Veterans Memorial Stadium to receive their diplomas on Friday night.
More than 220 seniors dressed in burnt orange caps and gowns created a sea of excited, nervous and happy young adults waiting for their next phase of life as high school is now behind them.
Guest speaker Jody Warner, a 2003 JHS graduate and now a prosecuting attorney in the Dallas area, inspired those gathered and told the graduates to challenge themselves to be their best.
Bell awards were presented to two teachers who greatly influenced the students and were nominated through written essays by the students. Bryan Webb and Victoria Elizalde wrote the essays for welding instructor Mike Mylnar (deceased), an exceptional teacher who had the respect of all those he touched in and out of the classroom. The Bell Award was accepted by his family.
Tevin Wilson’s essay was directed at the one person who asked him to give more, on and off the football field. Head coach Troy Moses helped turn Wilson into a force on the field and in the classroom.
“I was lazy,” said Wilson of his freshman year.
“My parents and Coach Moses helped turn me around. I changed; I worked hard in training and in the classroom. I finished in the top 10 percent of my class,” said Wilson.
Salutatorian Emily Barris, in her speech to the students, said that now was the time to show those who supported them all these years, just what they could accomplish.
“We have diverse futures ahead of us and will each make a different impact in this world,” she said. “We were all given unique talents and interests that allow us to stand out as individuals. Whatever goal you choose to pursue, I urge you to do it with passion and to the best of your abilities.”
Trying something new
She reminded the seniors not to be afraid to try new things.
“Life is not easy and will very often push us outside of our comfort zone,” she said. “We must also never give up.
“Our country was founded by people who knew the power of determination.”
Lessons, she said, can be learned from the past.
“Nobody believed this small group of rebels could create a resistance strong enough to overthrow their tyrannical government.
“But they did.
“Those citizens did not quit when the going got tough but instead gathered stones to face their Goliath and set in motion a revolution that would turn their 13 colonies into one of the most powerful nations the world has ever known.”
Their generation, she said, will change the world — but only through hard work.
“We must not underestimate our importance because our generation is the future of this world,” she said. “So work hard, never give up, and keep the faith because life is too precious to accept anything less.”
Finding the right path
Taylor Castillo, in her valedictory speech, said that while many of her fellow graduates have already chosen the paths they will take in life,there are those who still undecided.
“In fact, I’m sure many of you are a little uneasy about some of the decisions you’ve already made,” she said.
“But I want you all to know, if some of you are totally unsure of what it is you’ll be doing after you leave today, that is completely OK too.
“Nobody knows exactly where they will end up in life.
“Life isn’t planned out for us on a piece of paper and given to us.”
Life, she said, is about change and growth.
“Choose to live life the way you want to instead of a life defined by what’s on TV or what other people expect from you. Live the way that makes you truly happy, and reach for your dreams,” she said.
Just the beginning
That night, she reminded, was just the beginning as many will continue on into higher education while others will enter the workplace.
“As we leave here tonight, I want each of you to remember that you are exceptional and to always live your life with integrity and honor,” she said.
“Continue to be an inspiration to others in the next place your path takes you.”