The reviews are in, and those who attended the Glen Rose High School graduation on May 22 at Tiger Stadium seemed to agree it was a perfect sendoff for the Class of 2020.
The night was capped off by fireworks launched from the roof of the Tiger Activity Center next to the stadium, as a spectacular surprise ending.
The ceremony’s perfect appearance came with a couple of assists — from Mother Nature, and from Assistant Principal Jason Pounds. The start of the ceremony was moved up by about 35 minutes, in hopes of avoiding the rain that was in the forecast. As it turned out, the rainstorm ended up drifting north of town.
And the plan to have an audio quote from each graduate was foiled by a technical glitch. But school officials had prepared a printout of the comments, which Pounds read aloud for the teachers, parents and classmates to enjoy.
“I still think it was an awesome ceremony,” GRISD Superintendent Wayne Rotan said of the event, which marked the first time since 1972 the school had its commencement outside.
The students’ on-campus experience ended, of course, in a less-than-perfect way in early March because of the COVID-19 pandemic that prompted the shutdown of schools.
“It was surreal to see it all come together,” GRHS valedictorian Drew Dunson said as he was walking off the field following the ceremony. “Like, this was really satisfying.”
Rotan said, “hard work came together” to have “a memorable graduation, for all the things they missed.”
Rotan introduced Judy May as the Tiger’s Eye award recipient for the 2019-20 school year.
A new feature this year was having a parent or other special person designated by each graduate to hand them their diploma as they crossed the stage. Normally, members of the GRISD school board perform this duty.
In his speech, Dunson said, “The Class of 2020 is very special. Not many other classes can say they survived a worldwide pandemic. God can do crazy things in life, and while the world tends to focus more on the negative effects of the virus, a lot of positive lessons can be learned from this.”
Dunson continued, “As a class, we have been through more than we could have imagined. We have faced challenges that none of us could have expected. The reason we overcame those difficulties, though, was because of our resilient attitude.
“When we leave here today, celebrate what you have accomplished, but look forward to the future. I encourage each of you to find a dream that you want to achieve, and go for it. Become involved in your community to not only help the people you know, but to also help the people you don’t know. And most importantly, always strive for the betterment of yourself and those around you, because if you aspire for something that is greater than yourself, you will live a very purposeful life.”
Dunson wrapped it up by saying that even though the class members are going their own separate ways, “We will all be able to call Glen Rose home.”
In his speech, Class of 2020 salutatorian Joel Mendoza said, “The past couple of months were a test to see if we were mentally strong and determined enough to finish the last few weeks of our senior year, and the Class of 2020 passed that test. I am heartbroken that March 6 was our last day of school, and none of us were able to know this beforehand.
“We weren’t allowed an opportunity to say thank you and goodbye to our teachers, classmates, or the staff in the building that taught us so much, whether it was the quadratic formula or life lessons. But we must not let this ongoing depression prevent us from moving on with our lives; instead, we should use it as motivation to work harder and strive for success in the universities, colleges, technical schools, or military programs that lie ahead.”
Mendoza continued, “I hope that the Class of 2020 will not be remembered as the class that underwent the coronavirus pandemic; I want us to be remembered as the class that overcame this difficult obstacle by manifesting selflessness, patience, and persistence.”
Mendoza’s sister, Andrea Mendoza, was the salutatorian of the GRHS Class of 2018 — which was the school’s second-largest class ever, with 127 graduates.
TOP 10 PERCENT
The GRHS graduates whose grade-point averages ranked in the top 10 percent of the class were (in order): Drew Dunson, Joel Mendoza, Orrin Miller, Kimberly Sanchez, Kennedy Overton, Richard Sanford, Kathryn Burroughs, Jacob Merrill, Juliana Melendez, Avery Turner, Isabelle McDonald, Abby Payne and Brandt Moore.
NATIONAL HONOR SOCIETY
The National Honor Society members for the Class of 2020 were: Jessica Guadalupe Alvarado, Damaris Zuniga Ayala, Breanna Kate Baker, Molly Elizabeth Beauchamp, Dan Oscar Coates, Salma Guadalupe De Reza De Loera, Andrew Stephen Dunson, Citlally Salazar Espino, Jaqlyn Elaine Evans, Hailey Brook Ibarra, Kali Nicole Matthews, Juliana Nayelli Melendez, Joel Mendoza Jr., Orrin Dean Miller, Brandt Samuel Moore, Marc Aiden Moss, Kennedy Michelle Overton, Abby Rose Payne, Sarah Caitlin Reilly, Kimberly Renee Sanchez, and Avery Heart Turner.