Forty-six Killeen Independent School District students climbed the auditorium steps as seniors and exited the stage as high school graduates.

“It’s very exciting. We’re finally here. It’s a little surreal,” said Meghan Spear moments before earning her diploma from Harker Heights High School.

The midyear graduation drew school district leaders and school administrators from Ellison, Killeen, Harker Heights and Shoemaker high schools and the Pathways Academic Campus to celebrate with new graduates and their friends and families Thursday at Shoemaker High School auditorium.

Spear, already working for the Youth Performance Company in Georgetown stage managing theater productions, is headed to the University of Houston to study fine arts.

She said she started adjusting her academic schedule as a sophomore to graduate early, taking maximum electives to earn early graduation.

Ellison High School graduate Jazzmine James plans to join the Army.

“I wanted to graduate early to start my future,” she said Thursday. “I’ll remember the fun we had at Ellison and learning new things.”

Killeen High School senior Karen Rodriguez said she was taking emergency medical technician classes at Central Texas College with plans to become a paramedic.

“I wanted to graduate early to have time to enjoy it.” She said she enjoyed getting to know classmates at Pathways Academic Campus. “It was fun. I felt secure there.”

Shoemaker Principal Sandra Forsythe welcomed the large audience of educators and family members. “We celebrate your accomplishments.”

“You choose what to do with what you have attained,” Forsythe said.

Pathways Principal Bobbie Reeders said it made her emotional considering the challenges many students face to reach high school graduation.

“Remember the Golden Rule,” she told students, urging them to treat others the way they want to be treated. “Pay it forward when you can, not just with money, but with your time and attention.”

The principal charged students to continue to learn and to remember that they can accomplish great things when they make positive choices.

“Everyone here loves you and wishes you well,” she said to the students, seated in three rows and wearing caps and gowns representing the four traditional high schools in KISD.

“You will go far in life and you will be our next leaders,” she said.

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