BELTON — Marking the end of four years of high school and 13-plus years of education, the top graduates of Harker Heights High School urged their peers to reflect on the moments of unity that made their experiences unique.

A total of 618 seniors stepped across the stage of the Bell County Expo Center Saturday into a new life.

“We’ve waited four years to be done, and now we’re here,” said valedictorian Jeesoo Min, waiting with her classmates in the assembly hall prior to processing into the arena. “It’s exciting, but it’s fearful, too,” she said. “Nothing will be the same.”

The top-ranked Harker Heights graduate said she was thinking about the weekly grocery shopping she does with her father, realizing that will change when she moves on to the University of Texas to study engineering.

She told her peers she didn’t want to presume to give advice since everyone has different experiences leading to unique outcomes. “I want to encourage them to be ambitious and to persevere,” she said.

Salutatorian Rana Radwan was also considering the simple experiences that made high school enjoyable.

“I’ve known some of these students since elementary school,” she said. “I want to say something to unify us one last time.”

The second-ranked graduate of the class said she sought out input from her peers through social media about their most memorable experiences of high school. She said she remembered as a freshman taking $2 from a friend to perform a rap in a talent show.

In her speech, Radwan read some of the responses: standing at our lockers singing songs, the persistent “Go, go, go,” from teachers in the hallway during passing periods, sports victories, dances and other times together.

The 2019 graduation ceremony was a special one for Principal Larry Brazzil, too. After 40 years in education, he is retiring.

He worked nine years in the Gatesville ISD and 31 years in Killeen ISD, including 14 years as assistant principal and five years as principal at Harker Heights High School.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said after congratulating 618 new graduates. “It’s been a great ride for 40 years. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to grow in a wonderful place to work. It’s hard, but it feels good, too.”

He said during graduation rehearsal he encouraged seniors to seek out fulfilling careers. “I told them to find a next step that is as fulfilling to you as education has been to me,” Brazzil said.

“I’m happy I completed it,” said new graduate Raven Stidom after receiving her diploma. “It’s an awesome accomplishment. Even though I know I’m leaving my friends, I’m excited to move on to college and make new friends.”

“I’m excited and hopeful for the future,” said Baylee McGuire after the ceremony. “The time in school has prepared me. It was kind of emotional, but I will keep in contact with my friends. I’m proud of them, too.”

Todd Martin is an employee of the KISD communications department and writes about students, teachers and school events.

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