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Tears, cheers at Utopia graduation

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Utopia High School kicked off the graduation season for area schools on Saturday, May 16, with an outdoor graduation ceremony that featured tearful reminiscences, an outpouring of thanks from graduates and staff members and exuberant expressions of pride from friends and family members attending the event.

Speakers, including Utopia Independent School District Superintendent Jessica Milam, had nothing but praise for seniors for prevailing through a tough year that included a prolonged school closure in the second semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students returned the thanks to teachers, administrators and parents for helping them graduate and for showing the determination needed to see that they got to experience a graduation ceremony in the midst of the life-altering viral outbreak.

The ceremony was held in the parking lot next to the high school gym, with a temporary platform constructed to hold the seniors and family members and other guest gathered in small groups on the parking lot, with space separating each group in recognition of the social distancing requirements that have been part of the fight against COVID-19.

Twenty-seven seniors made up the Class of 2020 at Utopia High, and most of them were present for Saturday’s ceremony.

Each was introduced to the crowd and had their high school accomplishments outlined, their scholarships listed and their post-graduation goals identified before they were certified as graduates of the school.

Salutatorian Jackson Elliott and Valedictorian Ashley McDonald both spoke at the ceremony.

They thanked teachers, administrators and parents for helping them graduate and for putting in the hard work that allowed them to experience a graduation ceremony in the midst of the life-changing viral outbreak.

McDonald said she was happy to be part of a class that would “do anything and everything to help each other out.” While graduation gave everyone a chance to say goodbye, it also will equip them to say hello to new adventures that await them, she said.

Utopia High is in Uvalde County, just across the Bandera County line and draws many of its students from Bandera County.