BELTON — Joshua Chipman, 18, choked on his words as he thought about what it meant to be graduating with the Copperas Cove High School class of 2013.
“It was a lot, being here is ... it was last minute,” he said.
Chipman spent portions of his four years of high school battling cancer — Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The fight had him out of school for semesters at a time, once while he received treatment in Mexico.
On Friday, Chipman walked with 477 other seniors across a stage in the Bell County Expo Center to complete their time at Cove High. Friends, family and educators watched and recognized them for their achievements.
During the ceremony, Copperas Cove Independent School District Superintendent Joseph Burns said it was a privilege to participate in a ceremony for students who worked so hard.
“I can’t think of a greater honor than recognizing such a distinguished group of students,” Burns said. Students from Cove High are “battle tested and proven in the fires we call life.”
Chipman exemplified that tenacity as he spent his four years trying not to fall behind his peers and continued to work on his education.
“A lot of pain, a lot of pain,” Chipman said of his time in high school. “I had to miss out on a lot and catch up on a lot.”
Valedictorian Kyle Alexander and salutatorian Lisa Rivera both spoke of the future.
“My challenge to you is to make your future something to look forward to,” Alexander said.
Chipman had already thought about his. He will spend the next two years attending Central Texas College taking basic courses while his health improves, he said.
Glen Miller, who traveled from Fort Worth, said the drive was worth it to see his grandson, Elbert Holmes, graduate.
There is pride in watching your family walk across the stage, he said.
And while family will celebrate with Holmes today, graduation night is just as much for the students as it for the parents, Miller said.
“Tonight they should be looking forward to some fun,” he said. “It is the completion of 12 years of life. Tomorrow, they should look toward the future, because tomorrow is the first day of the rest of their lives.”
For students like Chipman, graduation was indeed an honor.
“I am so glad, to be here,” he said. “I have become grateful for every little thing.”