By Lindsay Starr Platt, The Belton Journal
The largest graduating class ever from Belton High School walked across the stage on Thursday evening at the Bell County Expo Center. As graduates clutched their diplomas the smiles beaming on their faces could not be missed, whatever the struggles were whether, academically, socially or just getting through those ‘teenage years’, they did it and made it through high school. With their diplomas in hand, a flick of the tassel from right to left on their caps, which were soon tossed in the air, there they were, the class of 2015.
Jacob Cheek, senior class president, said. “As my friend Caroline Rock once wrote, ‘Life isn’t always black and white. There are the gray patches that pane so much of our journey in high school. Stuck between the highs and lows, we feel the stress, the nostalgia, the fear, the hope. There is the black, white, and gray – and then there is the red. It’s the color of strength and action that illuminates our student section and lines our hallways. It’s the color of life at Belton High.’ … I have come up with four things you should take with you after you walk down the stage with your diploma. Commit to the Journey. Outcomes always fall short of expectations. The world needs you. Bring a child-like sense of wonder to your craft. It will continually teach you how to be present, be alive, and how to let go. You will fail often. That’s just a part of life- failure is merely a dress rehearsal for success. Do not give up. Remember the red, we are stronger than that. Things in high school doesn’t matter after graduation, but it’s what you learn from it that matters.”
As classmates, friends and family listened in, the class salutatorian and valedictorian went up to the podium and with as much poise and grace as they could muster, they gave the speeches they worked so hard on. They spoke of triumph, defeat, fear and just “taking that chance” to fellow graduates and to encourage them in future endeavors.
“Finally, after four years of hard work I can proudly say we’ve done it. After tonight, we will no longer be high school students, rather we will be young men and women ready to face life and meet every challenge ahead of us with our heads held high. And before I get ahead of myself, we need to thank the amazing people who have contributed to our paths till this moment: our families who’ve supported us, the faculty at Belton who have molded our education, and of course the friends we’ve made and cherished over the years. All these people have had an impact in our lives and made us the people we are today, and for that we need to thank each and every one of them for their influence.” said Nishanth Lavendra. salutatorian, class of 2015. “I make two requests of everyone here to think about as we go our separate ways after tonight. I ask of you to take chances and to be happy. These two seem to be simple, even obvious tasks, but they’re the pivotal difference in enjoying one’s life or living in the shadow of regret. Along with taking chances, I want to ask of each of you to simply take a moment and be happy with how far you’ve come.”
Tristin Boss, class valedictorian gave a speech about his fears and anxiety, just before the class of 2015 promenaded across the stage as new graduates, ready to embark on what life has for them.
“Fear shaped, and shapes, most of the interactions I have had in my life. I’ve never wanted to disappoint my family, particularly my grandmother. I never really wanted to hurt others, even though I frequently acted without forethought. I never wanted to be hurt. I avoided making friends, and getting a girlfriend, and hanging out with the friends I did have because I was afraid of what I would do, and of what would happen.” said Boss. “I tried really hard to not screw up. With the support of my family and friends, I made it through school, and got here, on this stage, and have to give a speech to inspire you. But if you focus on what might happen, you’ll never realize what can happen. And what I mean by that is, if you weigh your options, and consider the possibility of failure to be too great, then you miss out on the great things you could have done, if you had just taken the chance. But sometimes, the safety has to come off, and you have to take a chance. Don’t live recklessly, but always stride forward courageously. Believe there is someone out there that you are meant for. Dream for the larger aspects of life, and try to snatch what you can from life’s treasure trove. Always forward, never retreat.”
As the class of 2015 received their diplomas, the cheering from the stands and the flashes from the cameras was non-stop during the ceremony. Family and friends couldn’t wait to hug their graduates as they waited with bouquets and other gifts in hand.