BELTON — When choosing a path in life, it is easy to find yourself at a crossroad, Valedictorian Mason Andrew Lambert told the 2022 graduating class of Academy High School on Sunday afternoon at the Bell County Expo Center.
One of 11 students who finished in the top 10%, Lambert was followed by Salutatorian Carson Manuel Costa, Alex-andra Celeste Menzies, Ella Grace Berg, Bryson Lee Lambert, Dina Joy Stanfield, Ellie Rose Erwin, Emma Nicole Hajdik, Delaney Annaleese Matthews, Blake Samuel Bundy and Cadence Nicole Petrey.
A total of 104 graduates received their diplomas before a crowd of about 2,500 in Garth Arena.
“Life goes on and doesn’t leave time for second guessing,” Lambert said. “Whether it’s for better or worse, change marks progress.”
We should all be seeking how to positively impact those around us, he said.
“The only guidelines you have to abide by are the ones you make for yourself,” he said. “There are many different paths to choose from. What you learned in this high school will undoubtedly guide you. I’m so glad I got to spend my four years of high school with such an amazing group of people.”
In his address, Costa said the class faced some unprecedented challenges. The students had a strong support system and many positive role models, he said.
He thanked the teachers for all their hard work and commitment. He also praised his classmates and friends.
“Every day, my mom said: ‘Work hard and always do your best,’” he said. “My dad was a prime example. He set the example for my brother and I.”
He charged his classmates to promise themselves they would put forth their best effort.
“Be proud for the work you did to walk across the stage today,” he said.
Alexandra Celeste Menzies, who finished third in the top 10%, gave the welcome statement. She thanked the teachers and staff, and recognized the Academy ISD Board of Trustees by name: Calvin Eshbaugh, Jason Lambert, Jennifer Burnett, Amy Adcock, Alex Bass, Adam Fossett and Dana White.
“Thank you all for the support in leading us to this important day,” she said.
In the opening address, Eshbaugh, board of trustees president, rehashed some of the hardships placed on the students and teachers by the COVID pandemic.
“It is obvious to any observer that you have grown much because of what you have gone through,” he said.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,” he said. “Your youth is not your downfall.”
He advised them to “set an example for the world,” and to “recognize the value of faith, family and friends.”
“You will always be welcome back at Academy,” he said.
After the awarding of diplomas, Ella Grace Berg, president of the class and the National Honor Society, made closing remarks.
“Congratulations to my classmates,” she said. “I’m truly proud of you guys.”
Throughout high school, this class was no stranger to change, she said, meeting for example a seemingly unending list of safety protocols.
“But through these times of uncertainty, we persevered,” she said. “I encourage each of you to embrace change … take risks.”
She closed with a word of advice from her grandfather: “Every day is a good day. Some are better than others.”