Thousands of HISD graduating seniors gathered at their schools last Friday to virtually celebrate their years of hard work with other Houston-area students during the City of Houston’s Citywide Graduation Celebration.
HISD joined four other area school districts – Aldine, Alief, Spring and Spring Branch – in a first-of-its-kind celebration outdoor event that included a star-studded video tribute from a number of national and local celebrities, including Houston Astros All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa and Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles.
At Wheatley High School, the event was more than just a graduation celebration. Despite starting the school year as an “Improvement Required” campus, students and staff celebrated a class with a graduation rate of 98% that earned more than three million dollars in scholarship funds.
“You guys are such a special class, you all have faced and overcome so many challenges and you are still here,” Wheatley Principal Joseph Williams said. “And because this class is so resilient, I know that you guys are going to be the change agents that go out and make the changes that are needed in this country and this world.”
Amongst a sea of purple and silver and while family and friends waited on the sidelines, students listened to words from local leaders such as Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Mayor Sylvester Turner, who delivered his own words of encouragement to the class of 2020 and applauded them for their perseverance.
“You all are, indeed, an exceptional class,” Turner told the Wheatley High crowd. “You’ve not given up, you’ve stayed the course, you’re graduating, you’re moving forward. No other class or group of students in the history of our country has had to endure the things you’ve gone through.”
Westbury High School graduating seniors gathered at Butler Stadium across town, where moments before festivities began, retiring Principal Susan Monaghan received a surprise recognition from Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan for her 33 years of service to the district.
“I’m going out having loved what I did, and nobody can ask for more than that because not everyone goes to work every day and loves what they do, and this last stop at Westbury has been the best by far,” Monaghan said.
The 2019-2020 school year at the campus has been punctuated by exciting moments, including the opening of a Wraparound Transformation Center in November. The center, a first-of-its-kind, in-house community resource hub, offers high-risk students and their families support services that may be accessible in their neighborhoods. And just last month, seniors learned during a video call with Michelle Obama that they were one of 20 campuses in the U.S. to win a voter registration challenge co-chaired by the former first lady.
As the celebration got under way, seniors decked out in royal blue caps and gowns dotted the field in perfectly distanced chairs as they watched the celebrity lineup wish them well. Class Treasurer Cameron Sanders, who was voted “Most Athletic” by her classmates, said she feels ready to tackle college in the Fall.
“I’m going to be going to Sam Houston to major in Biology (pre-med), with a minor in Chemistry, so I’m really excited about today,” she said. “Westbury has prepared me a lot for the path I want to take in my future.”