BELTON — The top two graduates of Killeen High School’s Class of 2014 started kindergarten together at Peebles Elementary School.

Before they received their diplomas Saturday, valedictorian Laura Smith and salutatorian Brittany Mitchell both urged their classmates to look back with gratitude and to look ahead with confidence.

“It’s nerve-racking realizing it’s the end of high school and everyone is going their separate ways,” Smith said before entering the Bell County Expo Center arena.

“It’s exciting,” Mitchell said. “We’ve been waiting for this moment a long time.”

In a recorded message, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, congratulated graduates on reaching a milestone and told them their mission is not over.

He referenced the nation’s 13 years of war, also the time these graduates have spent in school.

Mitchell began her address thanking Jesus, whom she called her savior, and her parents, teachers and coaches for pushing her in school and on the track, both arenas where she excelled.

The salutatorian also honored her friends, saying friendships made the burdens of school “not so hard to bear.”

Mitchell said teachers prepared students for success making them “confident and ready” to face the future.

“Realize what you have today,” she told her classmates, urging a grateful attitude.

In the valedictory address, Smith said high school brought ups and downs, including moments when some wanted to give up. “Look how we overcame those moments,” she said.

“We’ve dreamed about becoming adults, and we’ve all had help along the way,” she said. “If we look to the future with enthusiasm, we can achieve anything in the future.”

The valedictorian said the class members changed the minds of anyone who doubted them, “even if that person was ourselves.”

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