Nearly 100 Academy High School seniors received their diplomas Thursday evening at the Steinke Physical Education Center on the Texas A&M University-Kingsville campus during the Class of 2019 commencement ceremony.

“This is a significant milestone in their lives,” AHS principal Juan Sandoval said in his welcome address. “Their graduation represents not only their hard work and dedication, but that of their families and friends who have supported them throughout the years.”

Following the United States, Texas and AHS scholar pledges, class president Gabriel Platas gave his opening remarks.

“I wanted to be the first person to congratulate each of you sitting before this stage today,” Platas said. “Not only on the accomplishments that I mentioned, but on being a group of individuals that learned to excel in their endeavors, adapt and persevere within their time at AHS.”

Lucas Falcon, the highest-ranking King Ranch scholar, followed with his address.

“Being raised on the King Ranch has truly been an honor,” Falcon said. “I have made so many memories during the past 18 years with my friends and family.”

Falcon said while he was with the same classmates through his pre-kindergarten to eighth grade years, it was when he entered high school that he made his most lasting memories.

“High school is the time when you make the most memories, like at sporting events, homecoming and, most importantly, graduation,” he said.

After reflecting on his four years of high school, Falcon thanked his teachers, friends, family and fellow seniors for the help and guidance he received along the way.

“I am very thankful for every single one of you,” he said.

Salutatorian Madelyn Peel followed with her speech. After thanking “all of the parents, friends, family, teachers, administrators and everyone else for coming to attend such a landmark occasion in our lives,” Peel talked to her fellow seniors about all of the “different, unique experiences” they had at Academy High School.

“First of all, I mean we went to school in a dorm building for four years,” Peel said. “Our hallways are a little tight. There’s been lots of squeezing past people walking in the opposite direction, and lots of that awkward pause where you’re trying to let someone else through the doorway first, but you both had the same idea.”

Peel said her class had also “weathered through three superintendents and three principals in our four years,” and that while “consistent administration (was) a luxury we have not had, it has taught us how to adapt to the changes around us.”

“And we’ve made it here successfully, anyway,” she said.

In closing, Peel said even with all of the experiences that united them, it is their individual experiences that set each of them apart.

“And it is what we choose to make of those individual experiences we have had now, and those we will have in the future throughout our lives, that will be what shapes us and decides whether we will succeed.”

In her address, valedictorian Katrina Barrera said graduation was “the day we receive the pen to write the beginning pages of our next chapter.”

“Sitting here in front of me are 97 incredibly bright students who have made it through four years of high school,” Barrera said.

Barrera then acknowledged how they would “soon be leaving the safety of our nests and going out into the world,” and reminded her fellow seniors that their families and school have been preparing them for this day.

Barrera also reflected on her time as a high school student, and reminded her class how they counted down the years, months, weeks and days to graduation. She said now that the day had finally arrived, they were “ready to take on the next part of your life.”

“From the moment we stepped into the building, we could tell you that Academy is not the average high school and we are not average students,” she said. “The work it took for each of us to stand here today, with the achievements we’ve earned, is not something to forget because we will need that hard work in the future.”

Following the valedictory address, Sandoval certified the class and each of the 97 graduates walked the stage to receive their diplomas.

The commencement closed with class vice-president John David Guerrero giving some final remarks, followed by the benediction and alma mater.

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

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