Seniors from North Forest High School waited anxiously as they held their tassels in their hands for the moment they could switch them to the left side of their graduation caps. Overhead, the sun was bright above Delmar Field on Saturday afternoon.
It was a similar scene at a trio of sites across the district—Delmar Field, Butler Field, and Barnett Stadium—as Houston Independent School District held its graduation ceremonies for seniors throughout the weekend, 45 of them in all.
For Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan, it was not only the end of a school year, it was also the end of her time as a part of Team HISD. She knew that—this year in particular—it was important to celebrate seniors and their hard work.
“Graduation is the culmination of the hard work of our seniors over the past twelve years,” Lathan said. “This class has had many, many obstacles in their way, but they managed to persevere and have made it to the finish line. I, along with everyone here in HISD, am very proud of our seniors.”
The Class of 2021 experienced Hurricane Harvey in their first year of high school and ended it with a pandemic, tropical storms, and a once-in-a-generation freeze. It was a series of obstacles not lost on HISD board member Kathy Blueford-Daniels, who spoke to the crowd gathered at Butler Field on Friday for Kashmere High School’s ceremony.
“Students, this is your day. YOU all did this, against the odds,” she said. “Parents and family members: you have stood in the gap and said, ‘Not on my watch!’ You are also the root of these young people’s success.”
One of the students in that crowd of Kashmere graduates was Alejandra Rodriguez, the valedictorian. In the fall, she will attend Wellesley College in pursuit of a degree in Aeronautical Engineering or Astrophysics. As she spoke to her fellow seniors, she highlighted the obstacles—both personal and global—they have faced throughout their educational careers.
“We never let a hurricane, a few floods, a pandemic, or a winter storm stop us,” she said. “We are the class that showed up and showed out. I am proud of each and every one of you. We are living proof that where we grow up does not determine our success.”
It was a common theme throughout the weekend, as speakers reminded students of all that they overcame the past several years—and all that they have yet to accomplish, including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee who spoke at Kashmere High School’s graduation.
“You are not tomorrow,” she said. “You are today. No obstacle can form against you. In a time when change is coming, I want you to be change makers and tree shakers. You’ve got it in you to change the world.”
Recordings of all the graduation ceremonies can be found at HoustonISD.org/2021Grads.