BELTON — One student’s spirit lives in the 473 of Copperas Cove High School students who graduated June 1 at the Bell County Expo Center.

The mother of Sihyeon Ryu Stephans stood before the hundreds of graduates and Copperas Cove Independent School District Superintendent Joe Burns in place of her daughter. Stephans, who was known as Sarah, died May 12 in a car accident in Williamson County.

The senior class officer died just weeks before she could join her peers at the graduation ceremony in Belton.

Her mother, in tears, embraced Burns and company as she received her daughter’s high school diploma.

“Look around, look at your families,” said senior class president Tiana Byrd. “They’ve pushed us to this point. It’s time to make them proud.”

Applause rose countless times from the hundreds who marveled at the graduates walked the stage.

Before they crossed the stage, and simultaneously into a new chapter of life, Valedictorian Emma Bodisch urged her peers to live a life not contingent upon social media follower counts.

Bodisch reminded her fellow graduates the kind of lives they choose to live is in their own hands. “If you didn’t like who you were in high school, this is your chance to fix that,” she said.

mpayne@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7553

Herald staff writer

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