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Vernon High School graduates receive diplomas

Some 120 Vernon High School students from the 2019 graduation class were issued their diplomas during commencement exercises held Friday, May 24 at Wilbarger Auditorium.
The commencement exercises were originally set to be held at Lion Stadium, but moved to the auditorium due to a weather forecast of rain and thunderstorms.
Valedictorian Rahul Bhakta addressed members of his class. He said the writing this speech was no easy task.
“There were nerves, emotions, and many requested shout outs. Worst of all neither Google or Sparknotes could help and there was not a quizlet. ‘Im sure my class understands that once these very reliable highly academic sources are not of help, it’s a tough assignment. Through the many differences there was one similarity between this speech and all of my high school assignments. I procrastinated. Instead of writing the speech I over thought it for days, and when things got frustrating I went on Braums and Sonic runs with friends or scrolled through Instagram. So, this speech is straight from the heart without any cited sources and minimal help from the internet. Sorry Ms. Sanders… after four semesters I still have not learned my lesson, but thank you for approving this speech.”
Bhakta pictured his entire class as a team.
“Each student is a teammate with our unique strengths and weaknesses, and behind every winning team there is a great coaching staff. This graduation would not have been possible without the amazing community of Vernon and the leaders within it who supported us every step of the way,” he said. “I’d like to thank the teachers, coaches, parents, and community members who guided us to this very moment. You are all part of our team. You are the coaching staff, and tonight you have led us to a win.”
“This is our last win as Vernon Lions. This team is splitting up and going separate ways,” he said. “We won’t be throwing powder in the air when we score a touchdown and crossing our fingers that Mr. Burr doesn’t get mad, and the days of stupid shenanigans at Walmart and riding around on empty roads are over for many of us.
Bhakta said that in the next four years, some students will be pursuing higher education while others will begin working or attending trade schools.
“We are a diverse group: future farmers, corporate workers, youth leaders just to name a few,” he said. “There are many ways to success, so don’t let others visions interfere with yours. Create your own version of success, embrace it, pursue it, and do not be afraid to fail. Failure is okay, if you fail embrace it. Like Truman…. when he did the announcements and said both pledges at the same time and asked ‘can they hear me’ while the mic was live.”
Bhakta acknowledged appreciation for the people who made standing at this podium and delivering the valedictorian speech possible.
“Mrs. Byars: It was in your class, freshman year, that I set this goal for myself. Your class was not easy, but when I grasped the complex concepts you taught I realized my potential. My tennis coaches are a big part of my success both in the classroom and on the court. They set the bar high, and held me accountable. Thank you for believing in the kid who shanked at least five shots over the fence in every practice. I hope to be as passionate about my career as you guys are about coaching,” he said. “I’m most grateful for my parents. As a first-generation student I am proud to say it is because of you that I am standing here. ‘today i am standing here because of my mom and dad’.”
Bhakta wrapped up his message to his fellow classmates.
“In a few minutes we’ll no longer be high school students. Some of us have been waiting for this moment for years, while others want to rewind to the beginning. On this day we feel many emotions. It’s hard to fathom leaving behind everything we have known for 18 years so i’ll leave you with a quote to help with how we handle the future from the great ESPN anchor, Stuart Scott ‘Don’t downgrade your dream just to fit your reality. Upgrade your conviction to match your destiny’.”
Salutatorian Christian Morales took to the stage to address his fellow graduates and others in attendance.
“I would like to welcome and thank all of the families and friends that put in the effort to come and honor this day with each of us and celebrate this great accomplishment. It truly means a lot. And to the families that don’t speak English, ‘le damos bienvenida a todos los amigos y familiares que han hecho los posible de estar aqui ahora para honrar la graduation de cada uno de nosotros, agradecemos mucho el apoyo de ustedes’.”, he said. “I would also like to take the time to thank some of those who have contributed greatly in our education and have allowed us to be here today. Thank you to all the staff of the Vernon Independent School District. Without each and every one of your support we could not be sitting here today ready to be handed our diplomas and ready to move forward into the next chapter of our lives. Thank you to all the coaches we’ve had in sports as well as in class for pushing us and making us better. Coach Castleberry, Coach White, Coach Smith, and Coach Patterson, I can say you guys have truly shaped and changed my life, and for that I am so grateful.”
Morales also expressed his appreciation to another VHS teacher. “Thank you Mrs. Byars for dealing with us for the last four years, I honestly do not know how you did it. Sometimes we can be a bunch of knuckleheads during labs, like when Truman stole a dissected starfish and put it on Sarah’s car, but yet you are so patient. You pushed us and encouraged us every day. You are undoubtedly one of the most hard working and inspirational teachers here at Vernon High School. And I’m also glad to say for a fact that your brownies are the best brownies I’ve ever had,” he said.
Morales also gave a shout out to his family.
“My parents are also people that deserve the biggest thank you I could ever give. Although there will never be any way to show how truly grateful I am for them, I just wanted to take the time to say thank you. Thank you for risking your lives by fleeing from the civil war in El Salvador and moving here to a country you had never been in before. Both of them sacrificed everything in hope of getting better lives. I am only able to be here today because of everything my parents went through for us. Although they themselves did not go to college, they pushed both of my brothers and me to reach towards a higher education and become first generation college students and to always strive in God’s path because only through Him can we persevere. However, there is only one regret I have towards my parents… and that is giving me the short gene as you can clearly see, or not see over this podium. Because of that I probably will not be taller than 5’5” so thank you mom. Of course, I am kidding but if you do see my family later, you can see how shortness runs in our blood,” he said. “In all seriousness, I owe everything to my parents. ‘Los quiero mucho mami y papi. Gracias por todo. Agradezco a Dios por darme padres tan especiales como ustedes’.”
“I also wanted to give a quick shoutout to my brothers for being great role models and for setting examples of hard-working men and first-generation college students,” he said. “Alex and Brian, you guys have been such a great inspiration to me and I really look up to you guys although I might not always show it.”
He then reflected on the past and future with his classmates.
“After today, some of us will move on to go into the workforce, some of us will go to serve our country, and some of us will go on to further our education. Whatever city, state, or even country we end up in, whatever we decide to do with our lives, this small town of Vernon will be the one thing that ties and connects us to each other. This small town of Vernon is considered to be all or most of our roots. I always tell my parents I wish they would have not moved from Los Angeles to here because I wanted to experience life as a city boy, I wanted to experience life in a big city and school, but I am truly glad I grew up in this cowboy of a town,” he said.
“Since Kindergarten, or even before, we have all been part of the same group. Every year our connections grew and grew and we became closer and closer to each other. All the people in this class and all the teachers in our school are the only people we have been really close with, and the idea of leaving is truly sad though some of us refuse to think so,” he said. “No longer will we have field days at the park like when we were in elementary or ever be able to sit in the same lunchroom together. No longer will we have trips as a class, although some may say we find each other annoying. Even though we will go our separate ways, the memories from the past years in High School, Middle School, Shive, Central, and even McCord are memories we all share. Although some will deny it, there will always be a bond that connects us as a class, even stronger than other schools because we were able to know everyone and each other. This bond, this connection, this friendship that we have created for the past years is something that I hope we all keep and cherish because although we will find new friends wherever we go, we were only able to succeed through the support we gave each other as a class.”
“We are more connected than we care to admit but that is okay because I know that deep in our minds we will never forget the strong relationship we have had all together. Vernon and these past 18 or so years will forever be our first home and first family. These I would confidently say that we, the Class of 2019, are a truly memorable and connected class,” he said. “Thank you.”
Third-ranking scholar Caitlin Brints addressed her fellow classmates in the form of a prayer.
“Dear Lord, thank you for bringing us here today to celebrate all that has been accomplished, and all that is yet to come for the class of 2019. Thank you Lord, for the Vernon Independent School district and all of the teachers, coaches, and facility members you have placed in our lives who so richly love us even when we are undeserving. Thank you God for my family who planted the seed in my heart to seek you first. I ask that as I go on my own that I continue to nourish and grow that seed chasing after you. Thank you for the friends we have made along the way, who have spent countless hours supporting us,” she said. “Lastly, I want to thank you for each and every one of my classmates. For all the laughs, hardships, tears, and memories we have endured over the years. We ask for guidance as we embark on a new journey that is much different than we have yet to experience.”
Brints asked that the Lord replace any despair that she and her classmates may have with your hope and the comfort, knowing what is ahead of them.
“I pray today, and each day going forward that we find the purpose you have set for each of our lives. I pray that we find success, and with that I pray we don’t get deceived with the success of this world, but the success within you, which is spreading your love and blessing the lives around us,” she said. “I pray that when we fail you deliver us with the wisdom to understand the lesson to be learned. I pray for comfort in times of need and for your hand to lead us closer to you. Most of all Lord I ask that as the class of 2019 each of us use our talent and knowledge that you have given us to further your kingdom. I ask that you bless the 2019 graduates and everyone who was alongside us throughout this journey. Thank you for your continuous faithfulness and your new mercies you have brought us every day and will continue to bring till the end of time. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”
Recognized as high honor scholars were Zachary Rosalez, Ronna Dennis, Dalton Reagan, Michael Allen, Tyler Reeves, Brisa Ramirez, Truman Castleberry, Lauren Hager, Taylor Hass and Austin Weaver.
Jessica Raychael Allen, Michael Lucas Allen, Dijae Jovan Bailey, Rheyna Da’Nae Bara-Ybarra, Dakota Ian Beck, Bradley Hunter Belew, Keyton Ray Berry, Rahul Bharat Bhakta, Krista Luciana Bodine, Caitlin Taylor Brints, Hailee Nicole Burkett, Rees Terrell Byrd, Truman Marshall Castleberry, Kennedi Jahne’ Cato, Ana Karen Cerezo Castafieda, Nolan Andrew Chavez, Chanie Michelle Conkling, Cason King Cook, Sergio Corona Jr., Brittany Paige Curtsinger, Ayden Blythe Defoor, Ronna Melynn Dennis, Emily Ann Dixon, Mykayla Ann Renee Dodd, Ryan Joseph Dye, Malachi Luis Edmonds, Sierra Sade Edmonds, Cody Jace Ellington, Alejandro Espinoza, Jadin Noel Fancy, Ragan Andrea Fieldhouse, Alli Nicole Fleming, Alyssa Page Fulford, Cassandra Isabel Gracia, Anthony David Garza, Paul Junior Gearld, Palace Ger, Bianka Selene Goco, Hunter Jake Goodrum, Lilliana Yasmedi Guerra, Nevaeh Harley Guerra.
Soy-Angela Case Guzman, Kyler Kayne Hafer, Lauren Neely Hager, Jennifer Ann Harrison, Taylor Brooke Hass, Elijah Hester, Kreed Matthew Holley Ramsey, Kaden Andrew Hooker, Tori Jasmine Jasinski, Isaiah Alexander Jasso, Maddison Brooke Jones, Alexandriak Lee Keck, Avery Lee Kinney, Thane Christopher Koch, Day Lay Lar, Tyler Chrisian Laxon, Pris Kee Lay, Thomas Jay Lehman, David Lore, Jorge Armando Martinez Jr., Kylie Nicole Martinez, Monica Martinez,, Jasmine Nichole McRae, Lluvia Adamaris Mendoza, Lance Ian Mears, Israel G. Mireles Hernandez, Christian Jeffrey Morales, Elena Sophia Moralez, Erik D. Morales Garcia, Kaden Dewayne Nail, Breanna Nicole Nava, Gabriel Martin Navarro, Jared Black Neal, Natalie Nichole O’Neal, Emily Marie Ortega, Shawon Christian Parker, Kbru Kee Lar Paw, Angel Perez, Raven Nicoal Pettigrew, Banielle Michelle Prather.
Jakelyn Rae Quisenberry, Abigail Marie Ramirez, Brisa Lynda Ramirez, Casandra Ramirez, Dalton Gaige Reagan. Tyler Aaron Reees, Debanhy Irisbelsy Reyna, Marc Austin Rodriguez, Nicolas Rodriquez II, Zachary Daniel Rosalez, Alejandro Josepfino Salazar, Makyala Alexis Salazar, Christopher Ramirez Sanchez Jr., Serria Nicole Shepherd, Deante’ Xavier Sims, Keyanna Sims, Jasmine Renee Sizemore, Kymber Nichole Smith, Has Eh Soe, Nay Kaw Soe, Jasmine Marie Soto, Andrew James Spencer, Nautika Vaun Stevens, Melold Leilani Stewart, Carl Curtis Straughter III, Mason Cole Strickland, Truman Scott Taylor, German Sanchez Torres III, Madison Elizabeth Turman, Malyson Ansley Valverde, Ayden Wyatt Talbot, Alyssa Renee Vasquez, Demoray Jakobe Watson, Austin Wade Weaver, Sean Michael Whitney, Jabari Te’shaun Willie, William Jacob Ray Wofford, Kayleigh-Brooke Celest Ybarra.

Vernon High School graduating seniors bow their heads for a moment of prayer as part of the commencement exercises on Friday. The graduation activities were held at the Wilbarger Auditorium instead of the stadium due to rainy conditions. See more graduation pictures in the print and electonic editions.
Daniel Walker/Vernon Record

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