BELTON — Clad in emerald green caps and gowns, 524 Ellison High School seniors walked the stage and earned their high school diplomas Sunday afternoon.

Graduate Bradlyn McClintock was especially proud after crossing the stage — she completed high school while raising her 2-year-old son, James.

“I feel really accomplished and really happy,” she said. “I worked and stuck with it.”

McClintock was one of two Ellison seniors who took part in GradCast, a Killeen Independent School District initiative to link students with their deployed parents during graduation.

Though McClintock’s stepfather is on month nine of a lengthy deployment in Afghanistan, he was able to watch her receive her diploma and then participate in a private video teleconference following the event.

“It meant a lot to me,” she said, of the opportunity for her parent to see the graduation. “It’s really special. He was super excited — I had the whole family in there.”

Before the ceremony, valedictorian Christy Coe was feeling “nervous” as she gathered her thoughts. “I just want to give everyone a positive vibe,” she said.

However, once she stepped on stage, Coe’s worries seemed to vanish as she kicked off her address with a selfie that included her entire graduating class. Her speech touched on the memories she and her fellow classmates made the past four years.

Coe was especially grateful for the opportunities her school provided — she was able to earn 50 college credits before graduation.

“Life is too short to wonder what if,” Coe reminded the audience before thanking God for her many accomplishments.

Salutatorian Kajal Bhakta’s speech focused on thank you’s, aimed especially at her parents.

“Mom and dad, I’m sorry for all I made you give up, but I’ll make you so proud one day,” she said to a cheering crowd. Undoubtedly, the friends and families in the audience already felt immense pride

This graduation was a culmination of many years work from the graduates and their teachers, said Principal David Dominquez.

For that reason, six Killeen ISD teachers, handpicked by students, joined the Killeen ISD administration and board members on stage to hand out diplomas.

As Superintendent Robert Muller confirmed the 2014 graduates, the crowd went wild and the Ellison students finally let loose, tossing their caps in the air and officially becoming high school graduates.

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