Harker Heights High School Class of 2020 valedictorian Esha Bhakta, right and salutatorian Kayla Davis recorded speeches for the school’s virtual graduation ceremony, which launched on KISD-TV and social media platforms Saturday.

Together they made it through high school believing in themselves and their supporters and that is the spirit that will guide them on.

Harker Heights High School celebrated the graduation of 620 seniors during a virtual commencement ceremony launched Saturday evening on Killeen ISD’s television station and social media platforms.

The school’s Class of 2020 valedictorian Esha Bhakta pointed out that through many years of school, students learned to support and to believe in one another. She recalled memories formed on school trips, cheering on athletic teams and racing back to school after lunch.

“We found families in our clubs, teams and classrooms. We met educators that left lifelong impressions on our minds and hearts. That’s what got us here and you know what? That’s what will guide us through the rest of our lives,” she said.

“Along the road, we will meet new friends, create new families and we will get through whatever life decides to throw at us.”

The school’s top-ranked graduating senior said she learned the importance of validation built on believing in yourself and trusting your own decisions. Great athletes and musicians, even geniuses, she said, must first believe in themselves and be willing to adapt.

Bhakta thanked special mentors and praised her parents, who she said came to this country with nothing and worked to give her everything.

“Believe in yourself,” she said, quoting a message given to her. “You are braver than you think, more talented than you know and capable of more than you can imagine.”

Salutatorian Kayla Davis urged her classmates to consider their milestone achievement, to recall memories forged throughout high school and to move forward with confidence.

“As a freshman, I had no idea what I wanted to be,” she said. “Even while I’m delivering this speech, I’m still unsure what I want to do when I’m older. That’s the point. We can never truly predict the future. We can only plan for it. If things don’t turn out the intended way, then improvise and overcome like our class has done.”

For Harker Heights’ valedictorian, nothing is more important than family, so it was a perfect gift Saturday when Bhakta gathered with 13 family members for the first time since quarantine began to celebrate her graduation.

With grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and brother, the honored guest posed for pictures, ate dinner and watched the graduation.

“These are the people who helped raise me,” Bhakta said, surrounded by extended family. “They give me strength. They motivate me. Family is everything to me. Even in this situation, they made it possible to celebrate this accomplishment. It means so much.”

In preparation, the graduating senior made a celebration wall in the living room with scores of family photos. “It’s something personal I made with my hands. It’s a way to tell them thank you, my gift to them.”

Like the rest of the virtual graduation ceremonies, the Harker Heights High School commencement included processional and recessional music with photos, video and graphics that illustrated the past year.

Superintendent John Craft praised the resiliency of the Class of 2020, noting that the nation’s future is in good hands. III Corps commanders also provided a recorded message of encouragement.

In closing remarks, Principal Jorge Soldevila said the Knights’ strong character has nothing to do with a particular building, but everything to do with their pride, courage and integrity.

Harker Heights choir seniors performed the school song in a recorded conference call ending with the lyrics “Knights are friends forever and our journey’s just begun.”

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