BELTON — Urged on to pursue the sort of success that changes the world, 627 Ellison High School seniors earned their diplomas Sunday in an inspiring commencement ceremony ending one phase of life and beginning another.

Giving the welcome to the huge crowd at the Bell County Expo Center, senior Akeem Cherizard said each student spent about 17,208 hours in class during their formal education from elementary school through high school.

The lessons, he said, went beyond the facts of academics to how to live life well.

“It’s not what you do from here,” Cherizard said, “but that you do it to change the world.”

Valedictorian Analisse Quinones also charged her peers to go beyond high school to do great things in the world.

“Don’t let high school graduation be your final moment of success,” she said to the sea of green caps and gowns seated on the floor of the arena. For emphasis, she repeated the statement.

Both the top two graduates thanked their parents and teachers and other school district staff members for their critical roles in their personal success and for the cumulative accomplishments of the Class of 2018.

The top graduate said the class enjoyed great success and also failure along the way. “We found courage to move on and that brought us here today,” she said.

Using a statement that she said is sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill, she said, “success is not final, failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.”

Salutatorian David Warnke also encouraged his classmates to continue on from high school expecting great things.

“I hope they feel they accomplished something, and that it sets them up to do more,” he said prior to the start of the ceremony.

“Many choices defined us as students,” he said in his address. “Our future is up to us to decide. What is in store for us? It’s my time and your time to make something of this world.”

“We are the future and we decide what happens next,” Cherizard said following the graduation ceremony as the class began to exit the arena. “We have a voice and we have to use it. It’s easy to say ‘we want change.’ We have to go get it.”

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