Despite the disruptions to their junior and senior years caused by COVID-19, Spring ISD’s summer graduating Class of 2021 stood tall and proud as they entered the auditorium at Dekaney High School on Saturday, embracing the moment and celebrating the milestone.
“These four years have been a true test of personal commitment and sacrifice that has shown we are capable of accomplishing any goal set,” said Ethan Young of Spring High School, one of two graduates selected to speak during the combined ceremony for more than 80 graduates of Spring High School, Dekaney High School, Westfield High School and Spring Early College Academy.
“The road that lies ahead won’t be easy,” Young continued, “but our families, amazing friendships and impactful teachers have provided us with a solid foundation to be prepared for challenging obstacles and roadblocks.”
As they walked across the stage in their caps and gowns, the students were recognized not only by their families, who applauded and cheered them on from the audience, but also by members of the Spring ISD Board of Trustees, Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson, cabinet members and administrators from the district’s high schools.
Speaking on behalf of the Board of Trustees, Assistant Secretary Justine Durant acknowledged the challenges many of the students had faced, especially during the pandemic and praised them for not giving up.
“When you look to your right and you look to your left, at all your classmates that are seated around you in the auditorium today, you see the proud faces of resilience, fortitude, patience and perseverance,” Durant said. “You are ready to go out to make a real difference in the community, in the world, and in the lives of the people you love and that you care about.”
Before the official certification of the graduates and presentation of diplomas, Watson briefly addressed the group, congratulating them and all those who had supported them.
“The students gathered here today have worked hard for the last 13 years to reach this point. And today, their hard work has paid off,” the superintendent said. “Graduates, you should be extremely proud of your accomplishments. Parents, families, teachers, you too should be extremely proud. The support you provided these students along the way has helped them reach this academic milestone.”
The ceremony ended with comments from Rudy Gonzalez of Dekaney High School, who reminded his fellow graduates of the support and encouragement of their family and friends, and encouraged all of the graduates to stay true to themselves as they begin the next chapters of their lives.
“No matter how you choose to define yourself, be sure to follow your passions,” Gonzalez said. “While our futures lie before us, waiting to unfold, one thing is certain: High school is over. We are no longer high school seniors, we are now high school graduates!”
Outside the ceremony, Gonzalez, a tuba player and member of the Dekaney High School Wind Ensemble, said he was grateful to his parents for their constant love and support, whether he was exploring his various academic and extracurricular interests or figuring out how to adapt to virtual classes during the pandemic.
“It was very tough transferring to virtual and online school work,” he said. “It was definitely hard, but I’m thankful that I just had to extend my schoolwork a week and a half in the summer, and now I’m receiving my diploma, so I’m really grateful.”
Other students also expressed gratitude for those who had supported them during their studies. Hailey Marie Brewer said that several of her Westfield teachers and administrators – in particular Westfield counselor Betti Revada – had helped her stay motivated and focused on completing her diploma when times were hard.
“(Ms. Revada) really helped me,” Brewer said. “She made me see that there’s better days, and that a whole bunch of pressure makes a diamond. It’s been a stressful four years, but today’s finally the day, and after all of this hard work and all of this preparation that we’ve been through, it’s done. We did it.”
Parent Kristen George was in the audience with her family to cheer on her son, De’Veonte Allen, who graduated from Spring High School. She said the effects of COVID on schooling had impacted both of her high schoolers, but that they had all supported each other to stay strong.
“It has been a long struggle, but I’m proud of my son. I’m real proud of him,” George said after the ceremony. “I’ve got him graduating this year and then his brother next year, so it’s a blessing.”
Allen, for his part, said he was staying focused on savoring the moment and enjoying it with loved ones.
“After today, I’m feeling like going to chill and have fun,” Allen said, hugging his mom and smiling. “Probably go relax my toes on the beach from all this stress this year, and just hang with my family. Today is a family day.”