The senior graduate candidates filed into the Arena in pairs, starting with honor graduates, as the band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” leaving two empty chairs in front of the stage, each draped in caps and gowns, a tangible tribute to their late beloved classmates Darrell Ray Puckett and Micah Lyn Reed. The military coalition presented the colors, then “The Star Spangled Banner” was sung by Freddy Botello, Bailey Early, Haylee Fletcher, Jatavion Hall, Isabella Hill, David Moreno and Misti Taylor. An invocation was given by Makena Walden, then the salutatorian and valedictorian succinctly expressed their messages to the class and those attending the commencement exercise.
Both Kendall Little and Matthew Harper expressed appreciation to their parents for their support, and the teachers for providing the tools to enable them to successfully complete all graduation requirements.
Little expressed appreciation to his parents for teaching him to live a life that honors God. He expressed particular thanks to teachers and UIL instructors Gail Herman and Gerald Grafton, for not only teaching him a variety of subjects but valuable life lessons as well. When he looks back, the class salutatorian said, he will remember the impact they’ve had on his life. He also expressed interest to the men who have served as pastors, each serving differently, but who have inspired him to live the best life he can. He said he plans to remember their advice and lessons. Little also expressed appreciation to his girlfriend for supportive year.
Little noted that God blessed him with multiple talents and abilities he would not have without His blessing and guidance.
To his classmates, he noted that while family, friends and teachers will remain supportive, now is their time to forge their own way, to be trailblazers of their own paths as they stand at the cusp of a grand adventure bound to be filled with many twists and turns that will require the skills they’ve learned. He encouraged them to succeed by keeping faith, relying on family and staying connected with current friends and fostering constant growth.
The 2021 valedictorian noted his immeasurable gratitude for his parents support, and the teachers that enable them with the knowledge to succeed to this point and the administrators who backed them.
“Thank you for attending and the support you have given us. Because of that support we are here today,” Matthew Harper told the many attending the Friday night graduation.
Putting the past and present into words, he noted is almost impossible. So, Matthew Harper said, we should celebrate the future, which includes full adulthood and all the benefits and responsibilities that entails. While exciting, he said, that can be a bit intimidating too.
He noted they are entering a world filled with deep divides across political, racial and religious boundaries, one in which hateful attacks are perpetrated for small differences that pale in comparison to humanity. If the graduates do not work to bridge those differences, then they likely will become part of them.
Thus, Harper issued two challenges to the Class of 2021. The first is to always keep an open mind.
“Gaps thrive on closed minds shut to different points of view and beliefs. Welcome the challnge, the opportunity to learn. That is something we must always do,” Harper said.
He further added that learning is not the sole property of scholars and students but belongs to everyone, and is needed to become a better person. Sometimes, he said, learning can be a slow process, and thus oft takes an active effort. Often, Harper said, we must struggle to become better people and must make the effort to slowly bridge the chasm among people.
The second challenge is to do good. Good, he said, is not the absence of wrong-doing or spite, but a constant action. He urged his classmates not to strive to be good but to do good.
“Do not be a bystander and silent witness. America does not lack the knowledge or right or wrong,” Harper told his classmates, adding that in instances where there is a lack of good, they must be willing to stand up and say what is right and do good.
“Seek fulfilling lies. Leave the world in a better state than you found it,” Harper concluded.
Classmates Anthony Arroyo and Haylee Fletcher sang the class son, “See You Again.”
Called to the stage by name was each graduate to receive a diploma, with family and friend cheering, clapping and cheering for their graduates’ success in reaching this stage in life.
SSHS Principal Derek Driver certified to the school board that each graduate present had successfully completed all local and state requirements for graduation. The school board then with “great honor and a whole lot of love” accepted the candidates for graduation.
Hannah Shultz gave the benediction, a final prayer of thanksgiving and ask for continued blessings, health and safety for the SSHS Class of 2021.
And, with a final “class dismissed” uttered by Driver, the students began celebrating with hat tosses, hugs, hand clapping, cheers, photos with classmates, friends and family, and even a few tears of sadness, excitement and pride from students and their loved ones at the magnitude of this pivotal achievement, the closing of their lives at SSHS, and beginning of the rest of their lives.
Serving as ushers for the graduation were National Honor Society members, with Matthew Sherman and Katie Tiemeyer as lead ushers.