White, Jefferson, Hillcrest Graduates Celebrate Resiliency in a Hard Year

After a challenging year for graduating seniors, the prevailing theme at commencement ceremonies for Hillcrest High School, Thomas Jefferson High School, and W.T. White High School was resilience.

“Collectively you have overcome a campus that was under construction, a tornado that left the school untouched but no doubt touched the lives of you or your loved ones, a globally pandemic, and — just in case you weren’t tested enough — we ended the senior year with Icemageddon,” said Hillcrest principal Joseph Sotello.

Outgoing Thomas Jefferson principal Sandi Massey, whose school was destroyed by the same tornado, said the class’s struggles were also lessons.

“I hope that you will get back up after the many challenges that are still going to be ahead of you,” she said. “You may not have to face another tornado or a pandemic, but it will give you strength to overcome the next one.”

Here is a look at the commencement ceremonies for W.T. White, Thomas Jefferson, and Hillcrest high schools.

“It’s important to remember that these paths are not always paved smoothly and clearly.” – WT White Salutatorian Ruby Rojas

“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.” – WT White Valedictorian Fabian Perez

“Some of us have lost loved ones and struggle to move on from there. I personally wanted to quit countless times but found strength in the most unexpected places and people … It is the difficulties – the dragons, if you will – that we face that make the good moments and experiences worth living.” – Thomas Jefferson salutatorian Alanis Gonzalez

“Life will always surprise us. We cannot be knocked from our path by those surprises. Each of us refused to let those hurdles stop us from walking the path towards this stage today.” – Thomas Jefferson valedictorian Alejandro Malagon

“Last year at this time, the senior class did not have the opportunity to participate in their graduation in person. It is really special — and exciting — that we are all able to be here together in one physical space.” Hillcrest Salutatorian Ryan Berman

“We overcame a tornado that went through our beautiful neighborhood and shut down school for a week, a snowstorm that caused mass power outages across Dallas, and — of course — the COVID-19 pandemic. Our ability to persevere through these obstacles shows we must be one of the most resilient classes that Hillcrest has ever had.” – Hillcrest valedictorian Ryan Prager

— Compiled by Bethany Erickson, photos by Chris McGathey and Kathrine Davidson

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