Graduating College Station seniors and their teachers used the last minutes with the class of 2019 to offer advice and a few lessons before the students step out into life after high school.
College Station High School Summa Cum Laude speaker Robert Dohrman encouraged his fellow graduates to chase their big dreams, while his A&M Consolidated High School counterpart Isaac Harris reminded the class they do not get any do-overs in life.
Harris challenged his fellow graduates to make the next phase of their lives amazing, to do the best they can and try. People who try progress society further, he said.
“So let’s try in whatever our future may hold,” he continued. “Let’s make this world a better place, and let’s give a little back to those people who’ve helped us along the way. Let’s go out into this next chapter with love in our hearts, and let’s make sure to cherish the memories that we get to make along the way, because life is precious. Time doesn’t stop, and time certainly doesn’t slow down for you.”
Referencing the story My Wonder Horse, Dohrman said this year’s class has spent much of their lives working toward a goal, whether it was finishing high school or going to a particular college or into the armed forces.
“And now, here we are. Although the diplomas we receive are certainly not magic horses, the parallels between the two are uncanny: Each the result of years of work and each representative of a newfound freedom, the strength to face the world,” he said. “So I do see this story as a warning. ‘Don’t settle,’ it says.”
He encouraged his fellow graduates to not put their talents, abilities and goals in a box, but to dream big and succeed even beyond what they achieved in high school.
“We’re ready for this graduation, we’re ready for this moment, and we’re ready to go into the world and make it our own,” he said.
While encouraging the students to have some fun in their post-high school life, student-selected CSHS staff speaker Greg MacAfee reminded the graduates that having fun does not mean forgetting about their responsibilities and goals.
“This could mean keeping up with your studies and going to class or showing up to work on time. Remember what you are trying to achieve,” he said. “If you keep your goals in mind, you will learn to balance fun with your responsibilities. So surround yourself with people who make you happy and accept you for who you are. Most of you will now have more freedom, which means no more curfews, no more eight-hour school days. You get to make the decisions. If that means going to an 8 a.m. class, go. If that means working a 12-hour shift, do it. If you make a commitment, follow through. Just remember to have some fun along the way.”
While the students have learned about reading, math, science and history throughout their years in the College Station school district, AMCHS staff speaker Bobbi Rodriguez said, more importantly, they have learned about integrity, grit, kindness, faithfulness and friendship.
“Every victory and every failure has offered lessons and helped shape you into the person you are today,” Rodriguez continued. “And the real reason we’re all celebrating here — your family, friends and teachers — is because we’re so thrilled that the world has you in it. We’re so proud of the person you’ve become. And we’re so grateful to have you in our lives.”
Rodriguez, a mother to young children, referenced Fred Rogers, the creator of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and one of her heroes, for his role in changing the world through his “small-budget children’s programming.”
“What was so life-changing about Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood? Well, besides the fact that he helped my son overcome his fear of bathtub drains, Mr. Rogers never once deviated from his central message,” she said. “One he put charmingly to music: He said to us all, over and over again, ‘It’s you I like.’ With absolutely no pretense, Mr. Rogers opened our eyes to the wonders at work in the lives of our neighbors, and inside of ourselves.”
It is worth repeating, she said, that the students understand the value of their character and how each of them will change the world in their own way.
Encouraging the students to think of and wave to those in their lives who have supported, challenged and inspired them on their journey, she said, “Now, consider this — somewhere, someone, when given the opportunity to think of someone who has changed their life, they would think of you. And I promise you they wouldn’t be thinking about the grades you got in a class or the points you scored or the money you made. They’ll be thinking about that time you stepped in to help when they’d told you they were struggling with something. Or that time, when everyone was feeling frustrated, that you cracked a joke and lightened the mood. Or that time you were honest, even when it was hard.”
The 2019 CSHS graduates — the fifth graduating class in the school’s seven-year history — were freshmen when Principal Tiffany Parkerson moved up from the assistant principal position, and while some parts of high school might have seemed to drag on, she said, that is not the case for their families cheering on the 434 graduates from the stands of Reed Arena.
“It went by in the blink of an eye for your families who still see your little faces heading into kindergarten when they look at you tonight smiling from underneath your graduation caps,” Parkerson said, instructing the students to look up at those family members and friends to yell thank you.
In some ways, Harris said, it does feel like yesterday he and his fellow graduates were freshmen signing the “We believe in you” banner at AMCHS.
“But it wasn’t yesterday. So much has happened since then,” he said, from teachers getting married to teachers leaving to have children and coming back to finish out the school year. “I hope we can all see now that time really does fly, and we need to keep in mind that we don’t get do-overs.”
It is not up to them to decide what lot they are given in life, he said, but it is up to each person to decide what they do with that lot and time.
“Don’t waste your precious gift of life; make something out of it, something that you can be proud of,” Harris said.
As the students go on to whatever is next, Rodriguez said, their family, friends, community and country need the best out of each one of them, not the minimum output.
“If you choose an endeavor — a job, a service organization, a relationship — give it your all,” she said. “Go beyond what others expect. Anticipate needs and fill them. Identify areas for improvement and fix them. Do this, and I guarantee you, you will change the world.”
A social studies teacher, she told the graduates they need to know their rights and use them, to vote and care — form an opinion and be able to explain it.
“Maybe one day I’ll be able to teach about one of you on the same level as all-American rock star Henry Clay,” she said. “But far more important will be the daily acts of kindness and courage, the unsung sacrifices you make for those you love, and the quiet greatness that comes from a life well lived.”
Between the two schools, 223 students received scholarships that totaled $12.4 million.
Concluding the AMCHS graduation, Principal Gwen Elder told the class of 409 graduates to let the light within them shine.
“Each of you were shaped by guiding principles that helped mold you into the young adults you have become. Hold on to the values and do not let people, life or challenges dim your light,” she said. “Let your light set you apart from the rest. Though many of you will live in various places across the country, shine just like the stars that are scattered all over the universe.”
Everyone has something to offer the world, she said.
“As you take your next steps, opposition will come your way, but you have what it takes to shine bright. Do not give anyone permission to dim the greatness of your light,” she said. “It is OK for you not to blend in, but be the brightest light wherever you are.”