W.T. White Graduates Class of 2021 in ‘Strangest Year’

Graduation may have been a limited crowd, and might have been a little later than usual, but the Class of 2021 at W.T. White High School can check one more milestone off the list of milestones that happened during a very strange senior year.

“We are here to celebrate a commencement — a beginning, a start,” said principal Holly Wallace. “As a believer in lifelong learning, it is my hope that this is only the beginning of your educational journey. “

PHOTO: Kathrine Davidson

“There were times that I’m sure you wanted to give up, navigating a pandemic, snow apocalypse, virtual learning with difficulties logging into Zoom, and completing all your coursework,” she added. “But you did it.

Wallace praised the seniors’ resourcefulness during a difficult time.

“There will always be problems to solve, challenges to overcome, fears to fight through, and annoyances to push past,” she said. “That’s life, but only part of it.

“As you move forward with your life, focus on what gives you joy and what you’re passionate about.”

Rubi Rojas (Screengrab)

Salutatorian Rubi Rojas, who will attend the University of Texas at Austin, reflected on the path her class took — and they paths they will take in the future.

“It’s important to remember that these paths are not always paved smoothly and clearly,” she said. “If four years ago someone had told me that I would be standing here giving a speech at graduation as the salutatorian … I would have told them they’re crazy — not because I didn’t believe in myself, but because I always planned on graduating with a red cap and gown, and not orange.”

Rojas explained that she arrived at W.T. White as a junior, transfering from Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership Academy.

“I went from knowing everyone in my class that consisted of 50 girls, to only knowing a handful of people at White,” she said.

Fabian Perez (Screengrab)

Valedictorian Fabian Perez, who will head to Texas A&M, called the class’ senior year “the strangest year of our lives.”

“It all started in the middle of our junior year, where all of our lives changed in a drastic way,” he said. “It was the beginning of online education and we had to quickly adjust to this new way of learning.”

Perez pointed out that even though they eventually were able to attend in-person, it was still a senior year bereft of several of the biggest traditions, and a lot of obstacles.

“However, we were lucky to still make many memories throughout our final year, such as prom,” he said.

Perez, just like Rojas, pointed out that the commencement ceremony was the final event the senior class would do together — the next steps would be taken on their own, and would differ from classmate to classmate.

“We will go our separate paths and begin a journey for our own success,” he said, adding that the success might be hard to reach, “but we are the class of 2021, who endured an entire year of school online. We can achieve anything as long as we work hard to get to that goal.”

The Longhorn seniors also celebrated a few other accomplishments earlier in the week. Timothy James Wyatt and Samantha Lopez each were named recipients of the Dallas ISD Superintendent’s Scholarship, and will attend Midwestern State University and the University of Texas at Austin, respectively.

The school also honored its first graduating class from the W.T. White Collegiate Academy. Each student who participated in the program earned an associate’s degree from Dallas College in either business, early childhood education, or fine arts.

To view the entire W.T. White graduation ceremony, click here. Thomas Jefferson will hold its graduation on Wednesday, June 16 at 7 p.m., and Hillcrest will hold its commencement on Saturday, June 19 at 8 a.m. For viewing information, click here.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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