BELTON — Before a sea of deep blue caps and gowns stood the mother of Sihyeon Ryu Stephans before Copperas Cove Independent School District Superintendent Joe Burns in the place of her daughter. Stephans, who was known as Sarah, died May 12 in a car accident near Georgetown.

The senior class officer died just weeks before she could join her peers in graduation.

Her mother, in tears, embraced Burns and company as she received her daughter’s high school diploma.

Stephans’ spirit lives in the 473 of Copperas Cove High School students who graduated Friday night at the Bell County Expo Center.

“Look around, look at your families,” said senior class president Tiana Byrd. “They’ve pushed us to this point. It’s time to make them proud.”

Applause rose countless times from the hundreds who marveled at the graduates walked the stage.

Before they crossed the stage, and simultaneously into a new chapter of life, Valedictorian Emma Bodisch urged her peers to live a life not contingent upon social media follower counts.

Bodisch reminded her fellow graduates the kind of lives they choose to live is in their own hands.

“If you didn’t like who you were in high school, this is your chance to fix that,” Bodisch said.

mpayne@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7553

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