By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – The number of Grapeland High School alumni increased Friday evening, May 26 when 35 GHS Seniors sauntered across the stage, received their high school diplomas and embarked on the next phase of their lives.
As the clock struck 7 p.m., the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” filled the Grapeland Gymnasium and the first smiling seniors made their last walk as students at GHS.
Once the graduating seniors settled into their seats, Sayler LeBlanc assumed the podium and gave the ceremony’s invocation. She was joined by classmates Jakara Jackson and Rebekah Turner as the trio led the pledges to the American and Texas flags, respectively.
Once the pledges had been given, an emotional rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” was provided by local resident Amy Thorpe. As the last notes of the National Anthem began to fade, Hailee Sheridan took the stage to welcome those in attendance.
She then welcomed GISD Superintendent Gregg Spivey to the lectern for introductions of the GISD Board of Trustees along with the administrators of the high school/junior high and elementary campuses.
Following Superintendent Spivey’s introductions and introductory remarks, Sheridan provided a tribute to her classmates which captured the highlights, as well as some of the humorous moments shared by the Class of 2017 in their journey through the Grapeland school system.
The end of the tribute brought the GHS Salutatorian – Stevie Reynolds – to the speaker’s dais.
“After crossing the stage, we will finally close the last chapter of our high school story. Tonight is both an ending and a beginning full of memories of the past and dreams of the future. As we go about life in our pursuit of the future, my wish for you all is that you turn your cant’s’ into cans and dreams into plans. Always be true to yourself and don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love you everywhere,” the salutatorian said.
Sandwiched between the salutatory and valedictory addresses, Elizabeth Thorpe presented the Class of 2017 gift to the school. The gift was a rose garden planted in honor of Russell Pennington at the GHS football complex.
Following the gift presentation, Valedictorian Taylar Mullen addressed the audience.
“As we embark on the next chapter of our lives, we will always carry the memories of GHS with us. To our parents – our biggest supporters – we thank you. We could not have accomplished what we did without you. Your mental, spiritual and financial support have laid the groundwork for the success we are honoring tonight as well as for our future accomplishments. I pray for safe travels home and for peace of mind for those who are still trying to wrap their heads around their little boy or girl graduating. As for the class of 2017 – we made it!” Mullen said.
Upon the conclusion of the valedictory address, GHS Principal Rick Frauenberger began the presentation of scholarships. He was joined by several community members and civic leaders who presented the graduating seniors with scholarships and military enlistment benefits totaling well over $1 million.
With the ceremony nearing the moment the 35 students had long awaited, Rebekah Turner returned to the stage to pay homage to the parents of graduating seniors and to the faculty of GHS. She thanked them for their patience, kindness, knowledge, determination and for pushing them to reach the first of many goals.
Board of Trustees President Eddie Childress followed Turner after the parent/faculty recognition and was joined on stage by Frauenberger as the two began to confer the Class of 2017 with their diplomas. As the seniors walked across the stage, parents, relatives and friends showered the graduates with applause and shouts of joy and pride.
In the wake of the diploma presentation, the 2017 GHS class officers led the audience in the school song while Jakara Jackson brought the ceremony to an end as she provided the benediction for the newly graduated GHS Class of 2017.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].