Nearly 200 seniors crossed the stage at the Texas A&M University-Kingsville’s Steinke Physical Education Center on Saturday to receive their diplomas during the Class of 2019 H.M. King High School commencement ceremony.

After the processional, cadets with the H.M. King JROTC program presented the United States and Texas flags as class president Luis Briseño and secretary Tommie Zarate led attendees in the U.S. and Texas pledges.

Seniors Valeria Benavidez, Brianna Garza, Angel Jimenez, Ariana Jimenez and Bequi Vasquez followed with an a capella performance of the national anthem.

After a welcome speech from class vice-president Joshua Macareno, along with recognitions for students who earned certifications or associate’s degrees, as well as those entering the armed services, salutatorian Iliana Rosales came to the stage for her salutatory address.

Rosales began her address by thanking her teachers, friends and family before turning her attention to her fellow graduating seniors.

“We made it,” she said. “Four years. When I was a freshman, I remember my band section leader telling me to enjoy my years in high school while it lasted because I would be graduating before I knew it. Wow, was he right.”

Rosales said the day marked their last time all together as a class, and while she said she probably would not see most of them again until their reunion, she wanted “to see all of us conquer the world together.”

“No matter if you’re attending college in the fall, going straight to work in the summer or left undecided after today, I want all of you to have your very own successes,” she said. “We are all graduating today. This is one of the biggest successes we are going to have in life, but do not let it stop here.”

Valedictorian Tyler Dirickson followed with her address. Dirickson said she had grown up moving “from city to city, school to school” before she somehow “got lucky enough to land in Kingsville.”

“As an outsider, I get an objective view of this tightly-knit town that whole-heartedly welcomed me as their own four short years ago,” she said.

Dirickson said having a community one can call family is “a true treasure,” and that mindset also carried over to her experiences at H.M. King High School. She said as a class, they had proven their worth and worked hard to get to graduation day, although she said they did not do it on their own.

“It is because of the unwavering dedication of those who saw our potential and believed in our dreams,” she said. “It is the teachers and coaches who had patience with us and invested their precious time and energy so that we could redefine our limits. It was the principals and people behind the scenes who worked tirelessly to ensure that we had a smooth-running campus and all of the tools we needed to be prepared for our future.

“It was the people who devoted their lives to helping others prosper.”

After thanking her family and friends, Dirickson gave some advice to her fellow graduates: “Don’t be bums.”

“Not all of us are going to go off and be rocket scientists, myself included, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make a difference,” she said. “Each of us will find our own community whether we go off to new places or stay here, and each of us will play our own unique role. So make sure it’s a good one.”

Dirickson concluded by telling the class to be proud of the work they have done, but also to keep striving to be the best version of themselves.

“Don’t forget where you come from, be mindful of the future and take full advantage of the present,” she said. “My fellow graduates, we did it. Now, let’s go enjoy it.”

After the speeches, HMK Principal Jose Mireles certified the class and members of the Kingsville ISD Board of Trustees awarded the diplomas to the 193 graduating seniors.

The ceremony concluded with the singing of the H.M. King Alma Mater.

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at or (361) 221-0251.

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