A standing room only crowd filled the gymnasium at Kaufer High School in Riviera Thursday, as the Class of 2019 walked the stage to accept their diplomas.

Hannah May, the sixth ranking senior, gave the senior welcome and said although each student had a unique journey to get there, they were all linked to each other.

“This is our high school graduation, a big moment that marks our lives in a positive way,” May said. “Together we share one common bond as the Class of 2019.”

Patricia Thornton, the Kaufer Early College High School principal, thanked the parents, grandparents and guardians for the support they have given her students.

“’Thank you’ is much too small an expression for all you have done for your graduates,” Thornton said. “They are here today because of your unconditional love and support.”

Thornton also encouraged her students to appreciate the moments before them not just on that day, but every day.

“Today is a gift, and in every day miracles are spread about, if only you have eyes to see them,” Thornton said. “Believe in seeking balance between hustle and rest, and striving to find balance in both.”

The guest speaker for Thursday’s commencement was Dixie Wheeler, salutatorian of the Kaufer High School Class of 2009. In 2012, she graduated magna cum laude from Texas A&M University-College Station with a Bachelor of Science in health. She received a second bachelor’s degree in nursing from the university in 2014.

She recently graduated from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi with a master’s degree in nursing and has served in a number of local hospitals. She is certified as a family nurse practitioner. Wheeler spoke about the pillars in her life that had guided her to her goals.

“These elements include ethics, self-confidence, perseverance and support,” Wheeler said. “Throughout life, we encounter setbacks and challenges that can shake us to our core. My mother would always tell me to re-evaluate the situation, figure out a new direction to get to my desired goal, and continue until I reached that goal.”

The Class of 2019 included the first four students to graduate with associate’s degrees through the Early College High School program. Two of those students were salutatorian Hannah Borden and valedictorian Kendall Huff.

Borden, the daughter of Riviera coach Nathan and Cathy Borden and related the lessons she had learned from sports.

“Each one of these sports taught me how to be a teammate and how to believe in myself, how to maintain a level head when you’re trying to make a comeback or how to maintain a lead,” Borden said. “They taught me to be disciplined and patient, diligent and hard working.”

Borden said although she and many of her classmates would always consider Riviera home, they needed to work to make their new destinations following graduation a new home.

“As we venture off and decide who we want to be and where we want to go, I hope you will make that place home,” Borden said. “A place with love, pride and make more memories than ever before, and a place to reminisce on the memories you made here.”

Huff told her students they each have learned the tools to be successful throughout their school careers.

“We can all walk with purpose, pride and importance because our time here has prepared us for the next chapter in our lives,” Huff said. “Take everything you have learned these past 12 years and run with it…be inspired, be inspirational to others, and always remember to be a Seahawk.”

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