NAVASOTA — Hundreds of proud friends and family members gathered at Rattler Stadium on Friday night to cheer on just over 175 newly minted graduates of Navasota High School.

Graduate Paris Sa’Nay Thomas was just one of many whose family members celebrated at the brightly lit football stadium, though her relatives did take an extra step to show their pride. Thomas’ aunt, cousins, sister, niece and her parents wore matching T-shirts adorned with her senior photo.

Her family said she loved to be the class clown but studied hard and is serious about taking classes at Blinn College and pursuing a career in forensic science.

“I am so proud of Paris,” said the new grad’s aunt, Shawndale Thomas of Navasota. “We have been through so much. ... losing a grandmother and grandfather and a great-grandparent along the way ... but she made it through by the grace of God.”

Dakota McDaniel, this year’s valedictorian, addressed the crowd, encouraging her classmates about their futures.

“We have successfully made it through high school,” she said. “For what may have felt like an eternity is but a fraction of the lives we have yet to live. Our lives up until this point have been somewhat structured, with a definite path through the school year. Our goals were clearly set and defined, but not now.

“Though our paths may be different, we have boundless freedom and potential, each of us to live a life that is all our own. We have the power to choose who we want to be, and do whatever our heart desires. The decisions we make today and through the course of our lives put endless possibilities before us.”

McDaniel graduated with a 5.4 GPA and plans to attend Texas A&M.

Hannah Marie Atkinson was this year’s salutatorian, and also gave a speech reflecting on treasured memories of her time at Navasota High. She graduated with a 5.1 grade point average and will attend Texas A&M to study public health.

Just under 200 scholarships were granted from dozens of entities to Navasota students this year, according to the high school’s Facebook page.

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