After a year of social distancing, more than 540 Highland Park High School seniors gathered to walk the stage at Moody Coliseum Friday and celebrate the class of 2021.
The class of 2021 includes 13 National Merit Finalists, five National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholars, two National African American Recognition Program Scholars, 32 National Merit Commended students, 47 National AP Scholars, the National Football Foundation Gridiron Club of Dallas scholar-athlete of the year, Texas Girls Coaches Association (TGCA) Cross Country athlete of the year, an All-State band member, and team and individual medalists in various UIL competitions.
Valedictorian Clarabel Chen reflected on the class of 2021.
“Since freshman year, we’ve established ourselves as a proactive Highland Park class, we’ve stood up for what’s right, always striving to learn more in hopes that we can become better versions of ourselves that ultimately form better versions of our communities,” Chen said. “We’ve been community organizers and volunteers, we’ve been protesters and voters … I’ve never stopped being impressed with all of you and with all of your civic mindedness.”
Salutatorian Tabish Soleman encouraged his classmates to embrace change.
“The beautiful thing about the future is that it’s completely unpredictable. That’s what makes it so exciting. So in the years to come, we have to embrace all the changes we experience,” Soleman said. “Growing up seems scary, but it’s a part of our lives. So as we move forward with gratitude in our hearts and graduation money in our pockets, let us walk in our next chapter with open arms and an even more open mind.”
Highland Park High School Principal Jeremy Gilbert said he’ll always remember the 2020-2021 school year.
“The 2020-2021 school year is a year I will always remember, and I genuinely mean this in the most flattering way possible. It was graduation day a year ago that I was blessed with the news that I was going to be the new principal of Highland Park High School,” Gilbert said.
“To the class of 2021, I know that things may have not gone as you had hoped, or thought they would, or could ever have anticipated in the last year,” Superintendent Dr. Tom Trigg added. “The relationships you have developed, the unlimited potential that you possess make your future extremely bright. Enter to learn, go forth to serve. Always keep this motto near your heart.”
Former president of the HPISD board of trustees Jim Hitzelberger also reflected on the class of 2021 and his time on the board.
“I was elected, fortunate enough, 12 years ago to serve on the board. You were finishing up your kindergarten (year). And so I kind of feel like I’ve kind of gone through this journey with you,” Hitzelberger said. “As a trustee the last 12 years … we’ve had a bond pass in 2008 and you went to elementary school with construction. You went to the intermediate school in 2013, 2017, we had a bond pass in 2015 … more construction at the intermediate (and) middle school. Off to high school … you’ve had continuous construction since you started kindergarten … thank you class of 2021 for your flexibility and patience with our school district.”
John Paul Berry, who was recently named among the nominees for a best actor award for the 10th-annual Dallas Summer Musicals High School Musical Theatre Awards for his role in the school’s production of Shrek The Musical, closed out the ceremony with a performance of Landslide.