The 2023 graduating class of Waelder High School saw 28 people walk across the stage to receive their diplomas during commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 27, at the Waelder ISD gymnasium.
Valedictorian Angela Gutierrez De La Rosa called the day a “day of change” for the graduating class.
“It is not just a simple flip of the page, but the start of a whole new book, a book full of unknowns,” she said. “This book will contain new adventures and challenges that will help us continue to grow. Even though change can be scary, I know we're gonna be all fine.”
Gutierrez De La Rosa mentioned the challenges she faced as a newcomer not only to Waelder, but to the United States. She not only has graduated at the top of her class but will be moving on to attend a university this fall despite English not being her native language.
“When I moved to the United States, it was not just a simple geographical change; it was also a lifestyle change,” Gutierrez De La Rosa said. “This change was specifically significant because I didn't know the language.”
She said at first she struggled with her schoolwork and felt badly for herself, but thanks to the intervention of some of her teachers, she began to learn English and her grades improved steadily. She quoted her mother, who likes to say that “if you have an ability, you can show it regardless of adverse circumstances.”
Her advice, especially to her younger siblings and relatives, was simple: “Do not let anyone tell you you can’t do it, and if they do, prove them wrong. The satisfying part is proving them wrong.”
In closing, Gutierrez De La Rosa told her fellow graduates to “light a candle for your dreams and complete them, even if it takes a long time and it’s a hard road. Remember that every day is an opportunity to change your life and be who you want to be.”
Elizabeth Godinez Perez, the class salutatorian, told her fellow students this was a day they had all been waiting on for many years.
“Graduates, we have all been waiting for this day to come. After all these tough years of learning and hard work, we've managed to be where we are today,” Godinez Perez said. “You should all be proud of yourself for getting to this point in your journey. We have made great memories, long lasting friendships, that will never be forgotten.”
She thanked the teachers at Waelder ISD for “for putting up with us through all these years. But on a serious note, thank you for expanding our knowledge and showing us that we can be so much more than where we live.”
She reminded graduates that “this is not the end of our journey.”
“This is only the beginning. We will achieve good things and live life to the fullest,” Godinez Perez said. “We can never know what can happen at any moment, so use your time well. Do the things you love and conquer your life your way.”
Waelder High School social studies teacher Kaitlin Steger, the keynote speaker for graduation, told the students they are “paving a new path into your futures.”
“You're eager and probably nervous about pursuing your interests and embarking on a new path. But honestly, you should be confident in taking this next step,” Steger said. “You persevered and deserve all the successes that life has to offer. It can be easy to worry about the future, to worry about how the new generations will carry the burden of social and civic responsibilities into whatever struggles may arise. But I can take a deep breath and not worry so much, because I know that you guys will be out there.
“And I know that you'll make a difference. I know you will strive to act with compassion and empathy,” Steger added. “You already recognize the struggle for justice, and that it's an ongoing pursuit that is absolutely necessary and worth the struggle. You know the reward might not always be immediate. And even if your act of integrity, so unwitnessed doing the right thing will always be worth it.”
Steger challenged the graduating class to “recharge and refocus all your effort and commitment from the last four years to succeed, succeed in whatever path you choose. carry all your compassion, wisdom and justice into the future. We're kind of depending on you.”
Principal Ashley Taylor read biographies for each senior during the processional and later would award scholarships and present the class for certification to superintendent Dr. Ron Lillie, who recognized the businesses in the community who contributed to the 2023 graduating class and also told students when it was time to symbolically move their tassels from right to left to observe the rite of passage to graduate.
Diplomas were awarded by Taylor, Lillie and the WISD School Board.
Student openings were delivered by Makayla Medina (English) and Annette Rangel Ramirez (Spanish) while the student closings were delivered by Vanity Hernandez (English) and Yesica Ramos Zelaya (Spanish). Lorelei Moreno led the pledges to the American and Texas pledges.
During the recessional, members of the 2023 graduating class gave roses to members of their family and friends before coming back for the traditional tossing of the caps.