Last Thursday, the Sharyland Advanced Academic Academy held its 2021 Commencement Ceremony.
This ceremony was far from ordinary, as white seats were sprawled out on the Richard Thompson Stadium, in front of a stage with lettering that said: Class of 2021, surrounded by red and white flowers of the represented Sharyland ISD high school colors.
Top students were welcomed on stage and opened the commencement ceremony. Raquel Guajardo led the commencement evocation, Hailey B. Pietrzak led the national anthem, Mariela J. Mendoza with the pledge of allegiance, and Paola Velazquez Magadan gave the Texas pledge.
Sharyland A3 principal Ivan Karr greeted the graduates and audience, starting with a speech toward the students he saw growth over the last four years.
“Seniors, we are all so proud of you,” said Karr as he addressed the graduates. “Your journey hasn’t been easy…yet you were steadfast, and you exemplified the tradition of excellence Sharyland holds for all students and the community.” Karr then continued.
Karr also acknowledged the parents who stayed with their children during the difficulties during school due to the ongoing pandemic and have helped them reach graduation. He asked them to stand in honor and recognition.
After addressing the Board of Trustees, Karr introduced the honor students: Class President Daniella Rivera, Alexandra H. Solis, Fatima Lazo, Sofia Herrera, Katherine Marie Garcia, Paula Velazquez Magadan, Mariela Mendoza, Raquel Guajardo, Erica Rios, Emily Rodriguez, and Jorge Carranza Peña.
Honor speeches took place, with Erica Rios being the first to approach the podium to share some memories from senior year.
“High school is filled with memories. Each one of us experienced high school differently, but as a class, we all have several memories we will cherish forever,” said Rios. The third-place honor student reminisced with her class about first meetings at Cobra Camp, outgrowing comfort zones and rivaling middle school districts after freshman year, and creating new friend groups.
“Our junior year was cut short, but nonetheless, we made memories together,” Rios said, retelling how many of them signed up for more AP and dual-enrollment classes at STC.
“Before we knew it, it was March 13, our last day of normality,” said Rios. “We might have missed out a lot of things we were looking forward to our senior year. However, our senior year is still a memorable one.”
Rios explained how the graduating class got to see one another for the first time during Senior Sunrise and got to see each other for the last time, aside from graduation, at the Senior Sunset.
“There are so many more things that happened these last four years, but most importantly, we became a family,” Rios said before passing the mic over to the Student Council President, Daniella Rivera.
“It doesn’t go unnoticed how much was done to try and help our transition from in-person learning to an online [platform] and pandemic-ridden situation,” said Rivera, thanking the families, parents, administrators, teachers, and staff for getting everyone through such a hurdle.
“We’ve watched each other grow, fail, succeed, make mistakes, laugh, cry, and transition out of childhood and entering adulthood,” said Rivera, before addressing her peer with a smile on her face. “I’m proud of you. I’m proud of us.”
The Salutatorian, Emily Michelle Rodriguez, took her place at the podium.
Rodriguez, who spoke bilingually to her crowd of classmates, said that high school has helped shape her into the individual she is today. She also took the time to thank the influence of teachers and staff.
“No matter what it was we always had support from them,” said Rodriguez. “I want to thank you for putting up with our little shenanigans every now and then despite any struggles you may have been facing. Without you guys, it wouldn’t be SA3 at all.”
She then ended her speech with these motivating words: “You guys will make it big after high school, and I have a good feeling about it. Whatever it is you want to do, I am absolutely certain you can do it.”
Before the students received their diplomas, the Valedictorian, Jorge Carranza Peña took the stage for a final farewell to his classmates.
The Valedictorian opened with the thought of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it affected senior year.
“I feel it should be something that happened during our senior year, but not something that has defied our whole high school career,” said Peña. “We should not look back and just think about the pandemic. The pandemic should be a small blur in our minds when we finish high school and as we start a new part of our lives.”
“Congratulations for everything you’ve accomplished in the last 12 years,” said Peña, saying that now they have passed a milestone in their lives. “We’ve endured and accomplished what some people could not.”
Peña described graduation from high school as ‘a new era’, an unlimited pathway for an opportunity. He went on to say that some may continue higher education, some may join the military, and others may start working.
“Whatever you may do in your future, I wish you the best and I hope you [can] accomplish what you have in mind for yourselves,” Peña said. “Later on in your life, I would like for you to look back and see how much you have grown personally and professionally.”
After receiving their diplomas, the students sat in anticipation of what their principal would say next.
“You’ve grown and matured into the wonderful individuals here before us,” said Karr. “We hope you have enjoyed your journey here with us. We can’t wait to hear of all you do in the future.”
After showing a video of high school memories created by the Student Council, the students moved their tassels from right to left, tossed them into the air as applause erupted from proud parents, family, and loved ones in the bleachers.
A firework finale was shown on behalf of the Sharyland Administration for all to see. A memorable send-off to the Class of 2021.