As the sun set over Delmar Stadium, 10 graduating seniors clad in bright red caps and gowns took the stage to introduce a special video making its debut at Bellaire High School’s graduation.
The seven-minute video introduced the school’s record-breaking nine valedictorians and salutatorian to the hundreds gathered for the ceremony and recapped key moments over the past four years.
“I think we can all agree it’s been one hell of a year,” said Valedictorian Wenson Tang, who opened the video from a table at The Teahouse Tapioca and Tea near the cardinal campus. “From COVID-19 and online school to snow and the Texas freeze, from political drama to social reform, 2021 is not a year to forget.”
The ten seniors were among nearly 800 who walked the stage during the district’s final graduation ceremony of the school year. The ceremony drew hundreds of families who packed into the bleachers, eager to get a glimpse of their favorite graduate.
The event began with the presentation of colors and pledges and allegiance and featured a special zoom performance of the national anthem by the Bellaire High School Chorale.
Bellaire Student Council President and Valedictorian Shirley Zhu also took the podium to congratulate her fellow seniors and remind them that the friends and memories made along the way would always stay with them.
“Keep moving forward, pursue your passions, and make your mark on this world,” Zhu said. “I love you and I believe in you, the unbeatable class of 2021!”
The Class of 2021 endured more than its fair share of struggles over the past four years. As the valedictorians explained in the video, their high school careers were bookended by Hurricane Harvey’s devastating floods, which delayed school for nearly a month, and the COVID-19 global pandemic, which led to online school.
“If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s not to give into self-doubt, not to give into fear,” Bellaire Principal Michael McDonough said before the ceremony as he urged his graduating seniors to be ready to step out into the world and take risks. “They have the ability and power to do really tremendous things.”
For valedictorian Evie Kao, the night was bittersweet. When she started at Bellaire, she didn’t set out to become a valedictorian, she said. She just wanted to rank as high as she possibly could.
Upon learning that she was one of nine valedictorians — all with perfect 5.0 grade point averages — she was surprised, but grateful to be part of a community made up of such kind, unique individuals.
“We all share this title, but we all have different stories to tell,” the 17-year-old said.
This summer, Kao plans to relax a little before heading to the University of Texas, where she wants to double major in interdisciplinary studies and business. She hopes to become a film director and, in a nod to that goal, she helped shoot and edit the graduation video.
“From all nine of us, we have faith that you’ll all do great things, but that’s not enough. As Elle Woods once famously said, ‘You must always have faith in people. But most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself,’’’ Kao said, throwing up her arms and squealing with glee as she closed out the video. “Congratulations Class of 2021. We did it!”