By Lindsay Starr Platt, Correspondent
On Thursday afternoon at Bell County Expo Center, 103 seniors from Belton New Tech High School @Waskow walked the stage as the second class to call New Tech their alma mater. The graduates have been together from the day of “camping out” to register, to the last days after finals. The New Tech High School @Waskow campus opened in the Fall of 2011 with just an enrollment of freshman students and each year after that adding another freshman class.
As stated in Belton ISD website; Belton New Tech is a public high school that focuses on engaging students through the use of Project-Based Learning. Our goal is to graduate students who are confident, knowledgeable, and responsible collaborators who are ready for whatever path they choose. Whether they go to college, start their own business, or enter the workforce directly after high school, they will do so with a strong set of skills to help them be successful.
“This is just the second class to graduate from Belton New Tech High School @ Waskow. Not only is it exciting to celebrate their hard work and success in high school, it’s also exciting to see the community and the culture that they have helped create at New Tech. When they chose this school, these students, and their families chose something unique and innovative, and that choice has clearly paid off,” commented Dr. Susan Kincannon, Superintendent, Belton Independent School District.
Classmates sat as they listened to what the valedictorian and salutatorian had to say in the speeches that are supposed to best sum up your high school years and beyond. Graduates were told never give up and roll with life’s “punches.”
“Over the next few years of our lives, we all will be building ourselves up in different ways. Some of us will be going off to further our education, others will be beginning careers, and some of us will be going off to serve our country. These changes mark a key point. Don’t get stuck in how it used to be; we will relive those days in the future. Today is an opportunity for you to make those changes you wanted now. Change for good and embrace this opportunity,” said, Heather Parker, Belton New Tech High School @Wascow, Salutatorian. “Whatever we end up doing with our lives, I ask that you continue to change the world in a positive way. To quote Wynston Marsalis, ‘It is harder to build than to destroy. To build is to engage and change.’ I beg you, go out and engage the world. Face all of the hardships that are coming head-on. You don’t want to live your life with regrets because you didn’t follow your dream. You will have some failures, but it will always be better to try and fail than to not have tried at all.”
“We’re not just graduating from any old high school, we’re graduating from Belton New Tech High School @ Waskow. The completion of our high school education at New Tech automatically gives all of us a leg up in life. It astounds me every day how lucky we are to have attended such an incredible institution. Just think about the great timing and luck. This small Central Texas town decided to add a New Tech program, in addition to the traditional high school and promoted an education that truly prepares students for post-high school life through the practices of student-teacher collaboration, critical thinking, project-based learning, real-world problem-applications, and public speaking have set this school apart from others. We have been incredibly fortunate to receive this type of an education,” said Andrew McMahon, Valedictorian, Belton New Tech High School @Waskow. “This education encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. I was shy and reticent as a kid and frequently struggled–and I still do now–to be socially competent. Now, I’m a regular chatterbox. Without a doubt, New Tech has helped me become more confident and, for that, I am grateful.”
Special guest, Dr. Mark Benno, Area Development Manager, Apple Education, Apple Inc. gave the commencement address. Benno told graduates that life will give you unforeseen difficulties, but you can respond and take control. Benno was a guest, as Belton New Tech High School @Waskow is an Apple Distinguished School.
Graduates filled the lobby and the lawn of the Expo Center as they hugged family members and posed for photographs. They could be heard talking about their next adventures in life and some had come back from those adventures to walk the stage with their class.
“Being here has been really overwhelming,” remarked Anleigh Torres. “I graduated two months ago and just got off a long flight to be here. I got married and my husband is a sailor in Virginia Beach. I am here.”
Cameron Taylor, a graduate, said “Feels really good to end the school year with classmates that are there for you. Strong people don’t tear each other down, they lift them up and we all did it together.”