BELTON — Belton High School honored 665 graduates at its 2019 commencement ceremonies Thursday evening.

Graduation was held in the Bell County Expo Center, with tickets issued to graduates’ family members to ration out the limited seating.

Several speakers rose to commemorate the occasion, including class president Jarryd Lara, valedictorian Jacob Jimenez, and salutatorian Marcus Ake.

In his prepared remarks, Lara praised his classmates and fellow graduates.

“I learned with you through our interactions,” Lara said. “I grew with you through our conversations.”

Ake said that in spite of his reputation as a class clown, he wanted to use the occasion to strike a more serious note.

“I have been gifted with a sense of mathematics, and while this is very helpful in the classroom … when I come across questions over true meaning and purpose, I draw a blank,” he said. “There is no pattern for life — it is a mess, an inconceivable jumble of bumps, bruises and bad dreams.”

Ake invited the graduates to think of themselves in terms of their inner life, rather than the faces that they show to the crowd.

“We should not care about who other people think we are, because we know who we are,” he said. “That is what is so beautiful about all of us — we are all different.”

Ake also encouraged the class to remember its roots — Belton, Texas.

“Our town of 20,000 people has stood by our sides most of our lives, and Belton will always rally behind us in the future,” he said. “It is important to know where we are going, but it is even more important to know from where we have come.”

Jimenez built his speech around a single question asked five times: Why? He asked the new graduates to stop and think about why they are graduating, why they need the approval of others, and why they are headed in their current direction.

“I think it is extremely likely we feel we have to graduate because everyone else is,” Jimenez said. “I have a dream college because my friends have a dream college. I have a dream job because people talk about their dream jobs. I need to prove something because you have to prove something.”

The valedictorian noted that many people discourage the idea of pleasing others, but he asked the audience to consider the possibility that the desire to please those around us serves a purpose.

“If it is so common to have a desire to please others, I think this ‘why’ is worth answering,” he said. “We are meant to be with each other, inspire each other, compete with one another … when we do, I think we are at our best,” our happiest.”

Jimenez encouraged his classmates to take time to ask themselves why they are here, and to keep asking throughout the rest of their lives.

“Congratulations … class of 2019 — go find your why,” he said.