Covering high school graduations at the end of each school year always brings back a flood of memories to the end of May, 1969, when I was one of the 644 graduating seniors from Samuell High School, Dallas. I have made it to three graduations this year.
On May 26 I was one of close to 7,000 people who filled Cedar Park Arena in North Austin for the Round Rock McNeil High School 652 member class of 2018 graduation ceremony. This particular ceremony was at 8 a.m. and even with the large number of grads, we were done in less than two hours. I got to watch my oldest grandchild, Lauren Tucker, triumphantly walk across the stage and get her diploma.
Lauren started her educational journey here in Quitman at three years old, climbing on a school bus in the early morning hours to travel to Tyler where she went to school because she is deaf and that is where Wood County non-hearing students went to school. Her journey took her to Greenville ISD when my daughter Carley was working at A&M Commerce and attending classes where she finished up her master’s degree program. From there, Carley got a job with the Navarro County Appraisal District and Lauren headed to Corsicana ISD. Two years ago, Carley was able to get on with the Texas State Comptroller’s office in Austin, thus, another move to McNeil High School. This past week they have come full circle and moved back to Wood County where my daughter started her new job with the comptroller’s office here in East Texas.
On June 1 it was Quitman’s graduation, where I got to enjoy watching so many of the graduates walk the stage who I have covered in the past four years for a variety of reasons. The following evening it was a trip to Yantis to watch the class of 2018 walk the stage.
Watching and being there for these graduations made me proud for all the young people I have come to know over the years. Covering school events and athletics has given me a front row seat where I have seen so many of these young folks grow from frightened freshmen to confident seniors ready to take on the world. Although I covered mostly Quitman and Yantis, I got to watch and enjoy students from other Wood County schools also, mainly Mineola and Alba-Golden. I see great hope and anticipation in all of them.
From watching the excitement of my granddaughter as she received her diploma and the absolute sheer joy of Spencer Rye in Quitman as he bounded happily across the stage, to the determination on the face of Jayden Modrall of Yantis as he prepares for collegiate basketball, I can honestly say, I believe the class of 2018 will make this world a better place for us all.
To the seniors at Alba-Golden, Mineola, Hawkins, Winnsboro, Yantis and Quitman, I challenge you to be the best you can be wherever life’s road takes you. The possibilities are endless and from what I have seen, you have the desire and determination to be successful. I have watched many of you over the past four years and I have full confidence each one of you will find your place in the great scheme of the future.
I think back to my class of 1969. My peers have gone on to be doctors, lawyers, preachers, roofers, teachers, firefighters, soldiers and many other endeavors. We have lost close to 100 from my class, who for whatever reason, have passed on from this worldly life. Of my four closest friends, only one has fallen victim to death. The other three have remained my close friends for over 60 years now. One is a doctor, one a writer and teacher, and one retired recently from the United States Post Office. Then there is me, I have been in radio, in education as a teacher and coach and now, a journalist.
I leave the class of 2018 with this, be loyal and cherish your friends. Have faith in yourself! Always pick yourself up one more time than you fall down and you will make a difference in the lives you touch in your lifetime.
Go get ‘em!