By Taylor Short
Killeen Daily Herald
For Shoemaker High School's Principal Ron Gray, the graduation of the class of 2010 Saturday afternoon was an event that mirrors his own time as an administrator at the school.
"It's the ultimate reward that I could have," he said about the same class that began as freshmen when Gray began his time as principal. "It feels great to know that we've been able to open the doors for whatever they have in their future."
The 454 students were the fourth graduating class to walk the stage and receive diplomas at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton but possibly the most animated.
"It feels really good to be here and I'm really excited," said Jameill Showers, surrounded by his classmates, draped in navy blue gowns.
Showers, 18, finished school early but rejoined his peers for graduation day. With a semester at Texas A&M University already under his belt and another summer class to attend soon, he plans to study construction science and business, but also strive to reach the NFL while playing football with his full-ride scholarship to the school.
The room was full of scholarship recipients. More than 70 students had at least $500, with one of the top earners totaling nearly $300,000.
Others, like Shavaughn and Shaniece Brathwaite, said even though they'll miss their coaches from basketball, cross country and track, the 17-year-old twins want to focus on academics when they reach Angelo State University for physical therapy and nursing.
"It's wonderful. It feels like a step toward womanhood," Shavaughn said.
As the graduates entered the arena, they smiled and waved to whichever area of the crowd they heard their name yelled from.
After Student Council President Natasha Cruz offered a prayer, student Ashley Brown thanked parents, faculty and staff for support. She encouraged the class to continue reaching their goals after they leave the stadium.
"Like my daddy told me, education is like hygiene: if you're bad at it, you're going to stink," she said.
Class President Alanah Lawrason, along with other student government members, presented a bust of retired Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker - the namesake of the school.
Salutatorian Ariana Lewis left the young adults with a final message that the only way to fail is to never try.
"Sometimes high school felt like it would never end," said 18-year-old Kelvin Harper, who is set to attend Texas Southern University for computer engineering and design.
"Standing here, now I can say I made it," he said.
Contact Taylor Short at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcove.