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Members of TEAM School Class of 2022 Honored in Graduation Ceremony

                Members of the Cleburne TEAM School Class of 2022 were honored in graduation ceremonies taking place at the Don Smith Performing Arts Center.

                Laramie Stehling achieved the honor of academic leader as the 2022 Top TEAM Graduate. Also honored at the graduation recognition on May 25 were Janice Deann Alejandro, Cynthia Boza, Brenley Celine Day, Jacob Wade Ginther-Sisk, Blaize Winter Rayne Gumtau, Maria Antonia Gutierrez, Ashleigh Faith Hightower, Katlyn Michelle Zopp, Colton James McMurry, Shayla Breane Miller, Kyle Miscovic, Matthew Owen, Cerra Marie Ramirez, Hailey Renea Steel, Harley Jessie Stehling, Curtlinn Bryce Stewart, Ginger Markita Tijerina and Jaylin Rae Webb.

                CISD director of Alternative Education Suzanne Keesee congratulated the graduates in achieving the important milestone in their lives. The ceremony also served as a milestone for Keesee, in her first year as administrator of the TEAM School program.

                “Milestones, and moments like this, enable us to look forward to promises of good things to come,” she said. “Among the things your education at TEAM School should have taught you is the great value of ‘YET,’ in learning to work hard and face challenges daily and being able to tell yourself I haven’t finished, ‘YET.’”

                “Your experiences at TEAM School should have also instilled in you a sense of pride,” Keesee said. “Your dreams are coming true, right now, before your eyes. It is important to look forward to the time when your education will make it possible for you to participate in the many rich benefits that our world has to offer.”

                Among the ceremony highlights were scholarship presentations, including three $1,000 awards from the Friendship Circle of King’s Daughters, a longtime TEAM School adopter. The recipients are Harley Stehling, Hailey Stehling and Dakota Faith Renick.

                Shana Peacock, founder of the S.H.I.N.E Together community service initiative, presented Elizabeth Guerra with the Servant’s Heart Scholarship, in recognition of her efforts to go above and beyond in helping others.

                Cleburne High School 2011 graduate, and keynote speaker, Rev. Hayley (House) Shotts, student ministry pastor at First United Methodist Church of Waco, remarked on all the graduates had endured in their journey through high school, including the impact of the COVID pandemic leading to a rise in mental health issues among teens, and numerous trends and tragedies making national and state headlines.

                “Your class of 2022 has endured more than most,” Shotts said. “In your time in high school, you have experienced a time in history that is far from our idea of normal. The COVID-19 pandemic heavily disrupted the lives of high school students—including yours.”

                “You may be thinking, ‘wait, this is supposed to be a graduation speech—uplifting and encouraging,’” Shotts said. “I have brought up these things as a reminder that even with all that has happened during high school, you are here today, and your accomplishments are deserving of even greater celebrations because you stuck with it. I feel honored to be standing in front of a group that doesn’t give up no matter what and I know everyone feels the same honor to be here in celebration of you.”

                Shotts pointed to research statistics reflected by the graduates as members of Gen Z, those born between 1997-2012, considered the first digital natives with information at their fingertips and social media a click away.

                “Your generation finds that their values and beliefs are important elements in the work they do,” she said. “This reflects a desire to bring meaning to their jobs and to make the world a better place by the work they are doing. You are a generation that has always had the world at their fingertips and is resourceful and quick to figure things out on their own. Your generation is justice-minded and has a willingness to make things happen. Your generation is comfortable using their voice—a big voice—in expressing opinions and has no problem challenging the status quo.  Your generation also volunteers more than any generation before.”

                “If there is any graduating class defined by grit, in your ability to persist in something you feel passionate about and persevere when you face obstacles, it is this one,” she said. “The truth is, it is easy for us to give in to fear and doubt in the face of the world’s problems. Your class did not let fear or doubt deter you from your goals, no matter how tempting. Each of you are here on this day of great celebration because you believed it was possible to do so. You have grit. You persevere.”

                 A total of 58 students achieved their high school diplomas from TEAM School in the 2021-22 school year. A number of TEAM School graduates participated in May 21 commencement exercises at Globe Life Field with fellow members of the Class of 2022 from Cleburne High School.