Hearald/Catrina Rawson - Ashley Shavers and Kelcey Bacon of Harker Heights High School look on during their commencement exercises Sunday at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton.

By Jade Ortego

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – The commencement ceremonies for 423 Shoemaker High School graduates took place Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Bell County Expo Center.

Salutatorian Jeyna Perez recounted waking at 5 a.m. for the last two years to do college courses before her high school classes. She said that she thought about quitting but eventually learned to love it.

"I urge you to find something worth the sacrifice," she told her classmates. "Hold fast to your passions. Your dreams will be what sustains you."

At the end of her address, Perez warned that life would be unpredictable and challenged her classmates to be unpredictable as well.

"When life gives you lemons," Perez said, "Let's make grape juice and let the world wonder how the hell we did it."

In her address, valedictorian Amelia Mallett thanked Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker, the school's namesake, for his patronage and involvement in school functions.

He acted as a father or grandfather figure, she said, when many students faced repeated deployments of their parents. Students could depend on him, Mallett said, to be at each choir concert or football game, sometimes when their parents had missed every one that year because of their involvement in the military.

There were 24 video teleconferences scheduled so that deployed families could watch their graduates receive their diplomas. Of the 77 scholarship recipients, 13 were offered full-ride scholarships.

Thomas Sanderlin was offered an estimated $500,000 to attend the United States Military Academy. Jerry Henry was offered an estimated $403,000 on a football scholarship to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Mallett was offered an estimated $200,000 from both the Navy ROTC department and Saint John's University in New York.

Shannel House, who had a video teleconference with her godfather who is deployed in Iraq, said that she is happy to be graduating, but sad because she's going to miss all of her friends. She's joining the U.S. Army and will be leaving soon for basic training in South Carolina.

Graduate Jessica Carpenter, who has a three-month old infant, thanked her family for their support during the time that she was pregnant and still enrolled in school. Carpenter will move to Colorado Springs, Colo., to attend Pikes Peak Community College where she plans to major in business. Carpenter hopes to own her own bank.

Contact Jade Ortego at jortego@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553.

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