“Mom, I know that my leaving to college makes you feel sad,” said Mission High school valedictorian Javier Eduardo Cervantes before pausing to collect himself. “You will always be in my heart.”
Cervantes has been accepted to Texas A&M University at College Station, where he plans to study petroleum engineering with a minor in business.
Meanwhile, Mission Veterans High School valedictorian Matthew Allan Sparks called out his gullible friends for not guessing he was out of school for two days in January to audition for a Broadway musical. Out of 53 dancers, Sparks made it through two cuts until he was one of nine guys fighting for six spots. He didn’t make it, but Sparks said Monday he wanted to cherish the moment.
“For those of you who don’t know me, you’re probably thinking that as valedictorian, I want to be a lawyer, a doctor or a theoretical physicist–your typical Sheldon Cooper (from “Big Bang Theory”),” Sparks said. “This valedictorian wants nothing to do with academics. Instead, he wants to be a dancer. You heard me Grandma, a dancer, but not just any dancer, a Broadway dancer.
“I’ve always been a student by day, and a dancer by night,” he said, adding jokingly, “No, not that kind of dancer.”
Sparks plans to attend Oklahoma City University, a private college home to the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management. He also plans to never figure out a math problem ever again.
He thanked his parents for letting him turn down a four-year academic scholarship so that the aspiring dancer can pursue his dream of performing on the big stage.
As much as they want him to pursue a career in law or engineering, Sparks said his parents are doing everything they can to help him make it.
“I would rather give up a six-figure paycheck and dance for a living than do anything else for my life,” Sparks said. “I know I’m pursuing one of the most competitive occupations out there, and I know I might not ever make it onto Broadway, but what I do know is that I cannot live my life without giving my dream a shot. The what-ifs are just too great.”
Aside from both valedictorians taking time to snap “selfies” from the stage during their respective ceremonies, there were some other new things for graduates at this year’s graduation ceremonies, Mission CISD Superintendent Ricardo Lopez pointed out.
All of the students were given medals from the Board of Trustees. The medals signify that each student in the graduating class is important in the school system. Also, Lopez said the district gave out cords and sashes for all organizations recognized on the state or national level.
And Lopez’s student advisory committee wanted the top 10 students at each school to stand out, so those students wore white caps and gowns.
“We want them to set trends and define who they are, so this is a way to do it,” Lopez said.
He also highlighted students that symbolize what the district’s all about, having overcome various obstacles to make it to graduation day.
Jessica Varela, who Lopez said has had hundreds of surgeries to correct her bones, was homebound during her second semester as a senior. Still, throughout her high school career, Varela has taken advanced placement courses and participated in UIL. She plans to attend Abilene Christian University and major in literature.
“This strong young lady made no excuses,” Lopez said. “She wants to succeed so she can devote her time and passion, reading and writing, to helping others endure trials and disabilities.”
Meanwhile Rosie Padron can remember falling asleep while doing homework at her mom’s second job because she was exhausted, Lopez said. At age 12, Padron was “diagnosed with an illness that would impede her from having a normal life.” Now she plans to attend medical school and specialize in oncology.
“Sometimes life isn’t what we expect, and we’ve got extraordinary kids in front of us that make no excuses,” Lopez said. “You’re challenge is to take this torch, take this flame and light a fire.”