Belton High School

Joshua Meyer waves to family and friends during the Belton High School graduation at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton on Thursday.

BELTON — Belton High School valedictorian Serena Shedore opened her graduation speech with gratitude to all the usual suspects — parents, church, God.

“Thank you to my friends for all of the laughter, support and teasing, as well as helping persuade everyone I used to be Amish,” she said. “Thank you to all of my teachers who have put up with my requests for extra credit and taught me about life outside of the classroom.”

Other speakers at Thursday night’s commencement ceremony included salutatorian Katherine Shelburne, senior class secretary Jade Wollenberg, senior class president Garrett Smith, class vice president Lauren Smith, and Belton Independent School District Superintendent Susan Kincannon.

A total of 687 seniors graduated from Belton High School.

Shelburne spoke about the importance of not letting go of dreams.

“I am an idealist by nature,” she said. “Since I was a little girl, my thoughts have been full of those sappy sentiments that are sometimes better left in a Hallmark greeting card.”

The salutatorian warned of the danger of being overcome by cynicism outside the safety of childhood and school.

“We are going out into the real world,” she said. “In day to day life, our practical needs are certainly the most pressing, … but long-term happiness requires something more than just continued existence.”

Shelburne urged her classmates not to give up on their dreams.

“Do not get beaten down and crushed; do not allow yourself to fall into a pattern of thinking that devalues and denigrates your dreams,” she said. “Even in small ways that other people may deem silly, like finally painting along with Bob Ross, or posting your original novel online one chapter at a time, you can still get involved with the things that bring deep and lasting happiness to your life.”

Shedore said that she regrets focusing so much on her grades while in high school.

“Measurements provide us with a false sense of security,” she said. “The depth and quality of one’s relationships with others cannot be quantified, yet its significance cannot be understated.”

Shedore encouraged her classmates to invest in others.

“As children, adults tell us we can change the world by dreaming big,” she said. “I believe we can change the world by each loving those around us and investing in the lives of others rather than in just ourselves.”