HOUSTON – June 11, 2018 – More than 2,000 seniors graduated from Spring ISD on Saturday in ceremonies that extended from morning to night at the Berry Center, where thousands of parents, friends and relatives packed the arena in support of their students.
“My dad never graduated, my mom never graduated so this means everything to me,” said Na’Kolbi Brown, 18, from Dekaney High School. “I’m very proud of myself.”
The journey to a diploma wasn’t easy for Brown and other students who walked the stage in caps and gowns in a processional that included well wishes from Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson, Spring ISD trustees and, for the Dekaney and Westfield graduations, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
Eileen Dekaney, the widow of the Dekaney High namesake, Andy Dekaney, also attended the ceremony with her son, Chris. “We’ve been to every graduation since the school opened,” she said of her family. “It’s an honor to have a school named after your late husband. Today is a special day. These students have worked hard for all of these years.”
Brown’s mother died two years ago, and he might never have graduated without the support of his grandparents and Sandra Ford, the secretary in the Dekaney football department, who kept an eye on him. Later this month, he travels by air for the first time to attend Mesa College in San Diego on a football scholarship. He hopes to study business.
“I call him my third son; I’m so proud of him,” Ford said. “The Dekaney family embraced him so he’s not alone. His mom is looking down on him, she should be proud.”
There were other challenges for the Class of 2018, including Hurricane Harvey, which left many Spring ISD families homeless or financially stressed.
“During our most difficult hours we put away our differences and came together as a community to show our love, respect and genuine care for one another,” said Superintendent Watson. He urged students, including his daughter who graduated from Spring High School on Saturday, to continue caring, loving and serving as the community continues to rebuild.
Board President Rhonda Newhouse reminded all graduates to enjoy the next chapter of their lives, especially as they weigh options. “In life, as in a marathon, you have to pace yourself,” she said. “The challenge is figuring out when to give it all you’ve got and when to ease up and enjoy the scenery.”
For Spring High School graduate, Derrick Bailey, the next two months will offer a short break before he heads to Texas A&M in Kingsville, where he wants to study kinesiology so he can be a coach. He acknowledged his future didn’t always look promising. He was held back in 4th grade, losing his father at a young age and growing up in poverty. “I come from a bad background,” he said. “I had to push myself more, but I had a lot of help that got me through.”
Four members of his family came out to watch him walk across the stage, on Saturday, in an event that drew applause, cheers and whistles from an audience waiting to hear the names of their graduates called.
“It’s amazing to see so many young people graduating,” said Roshonda Ortiz, who had a T-shirt with a picture of one of her two nephews who were receiving their Spring ISD diplomas. “They are our future.”
Throughout the day, graduates alluded to their future – paired with a sense of nostalgia for their high school experience – in speeches and remarks to classmates.
“As I look around the room, I see people who have been there for me through thick and thin. People who have made me laugh and made me smile,” said Spring Early College Academy Valedictorian Brandon Look Fong. “As we go our separate ways, I can’t help but feel a sense of sadness, a sense of loneliness. I have faith that each of us will go on to do something amazing.”
Aliyah Nikelle Milam’s three older brothers and sisters turned out to see her graduate from Early College, cheering from the sidelines as she crossed the stage. “That’s my baby sister,” Tia White yelled with pride. Milam is making plans to attend the University of Texas at Denton.
“She wants to be a forensic specialist and work for the FBI,” White said.
Congresswoman Lee told graduates they have everything they need to go out into the world to solve problems and to achieve whatever they set their minds on.
“There are no limits to your genius,” she told Westfield High graduates. “There is no mountain too high for you to climb. One man or woman can make a difference, and Westfield High School, you can make a difference.”
Keon Miller’s family showed up in red T-shirts to show their support for him. When his name was called during the Westfield graduation, they cheered his accomplishment.
“I’m super proud,” his mom Sherri Miller said. She recited his accomplishments, including three years in the high school choir. “He’s a very good student, never been trouble. He’s worked really, really hard this year.”
Toward the end of the evening, Westfield High School Valedictorian Thanh Tran summed up what many of her classmates were feeling.
“Graduation is like a middle ground,” she said. “It’s where we’re excited yet terrified at the same time for leaving what we have known and for exploring what is yet to be known.”
For photos, videos, profiles of each school’s top graduates and more, visit our Graduation / Class of 2018 website.