Diboll High School Graduation

Diboll High School senior class valedictorian Valeria Rodriguez flashes a smile as she returns to her seat following her commencement speech during the Class of 2018 graduation ceremony Friday night at the United Pentecostal Church Campgrounds.

The Diboll High School Class of 2018 graduated in front of a sea of family, friends and teachers wearing red and black in the sanctuary of the United Pentecostal Church Campgrounds Friday night.

Principal John Clements led the graduates and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and gave the opening remarks.

“The graduation ceremony is one of the most memorable events in anyone’s life,” he said. “This comes at the end of a long journey of academic and social perforations. These young people have successfully navigated 13 years of public education. Completion of high school can be looked at as the end of chapter one of their lives. A chapter ends only in order to set the scene for the next chapter. Seniors, I welcome you to chapter two. It begins tonight.”

Tyler Webb gave the invocation, thanking God for the friends, memories, families, teachers and other mentors who have made an impact on their high school experience.

Salutatorian Arielle Martin gave an address thanking her teachers, parents, friends and families.

“This journey has been a long and hard road,” she said. “But we have finally made it to this moment. Together we have experienced laughter-filled moments and moments full of sorrow. It has been those moments that have shaped us into the individuals we are today.”

She said the class’ next journey won’t be easy either, but she believes they will succeed.

“I do believe that we will step forward and achieve greatness and success,” she said. “As I wrap up, I’d like to leave you with a challenge: Focus on the now and be proactive. Theodore Roosevelt stated, ‘Do what you can where you are with what you have.’ As you continue into the future, remember this quote in your everyday lives.”

Valedictorian Valeria Rodriguez spoke about the past 13 years and all the memories and friendships they hold.

“But most of all we feel scared, or at least I do,” she said. “We are on our way to adulthood. I know I could not have without the constant support of my mom.”

Rodriguez said her mom is everything to her and has pushed her to be a better person.

“Every obstacle I have faced, she has helped me through it time and time again.”

She also thanked the faculty and staff for their important role in lives, and she encouraged her fellow students to step up to their potential.

“Who knows? Maybe the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs is among us.”

Lastly, she spoke about the memories they each share with two of their fellow seniors who passed away this year, Valerie Jasso and Baltazar Lara.

“We have suffered a lot our senior year. ... We have grown to care for each other, even during these tragic times,” she said. “I know we will always keep Val and Bal in our hearts, and even though they might not be physically present, they will always be a part of us.

“And I hope we all wish to make them proud of the amazing people we will become.”

Diboll native Adam Lowther, Class of 2012, was the keynote speaker. He is the community relations and corporate responsibility manager for Brookshire Brothers.

“Seniors, it’s not too long ago I sat in the same seats that y’all are sitting in,” he said. “I’m not an accomplished professional. I’m just a guy who is practical and works hard and tries to do the right thing. I’m very humbled to be here today.”

During his speech, Lowther gave the students several tips for their professional development: to ask why, to build a positive personal brand, to monitor how they communicate, to have a high say/do ratio, to give back, to work hard, to strive for excellence and to know their true north.

He spoke about the challenges Hershey Chocolate Factory creator Milton S. Hershey faced when he failed at selling candy as a kid and at his job at a print factory before he wound up back at his family’s dairy farm and found the secret to his world-renowned chocolate: sweetened condensed milk.

“Abraham Lincoln said, ‘My greatest concern is not that you failed, but that you are content with your failure.’ To seniors, you’re going to fail. It’s not fun, but some of my greatest blessings I’ve ever learned have come from failure.”

He challenged the students to leave this place and make the community proud because in a small town, everyone knows your name.

Grace Juarez’s email address is gjuarez@lufkindailynews.com.