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Out like a Lion

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Brownwood High School valedictorian Caden Reagan walks toward a stage at Gordon Wood Stadium Friday evening to give his commencement speech.

More than 200 Brownwood High School seniors graduated Friday night in a joyful and flawless commencement exercise at Gordon Wood Stadium.

The graduates’ family members watched from the stadium seats on the home and visitor’s sides.

While COVID interrupted the school year at Spring Break, it was clear the virus did not defeat the class of 2020.

Those who spoke or prayed, though, made ample references to the unusual way in which the school year ended.

As the graduates prepared to file into the stadium, the high school’s new principal, Lindsay Smith was among school district leaders near the front of the procession.

“They should be remembered for a lot of reasons,” Smith said of the graduates. “Their persistency through all of this is just amazing.”

To the pre-recorded music of “Pomp and Circumstance,” the graduating seniors filed into the stadium and took seats on chairs that had been set up on the football field.

School district leaders including superintendent Dr. Joe Young took seats on an elevated stage.

Graduating senior Jordan Roberts gave the invocation, praying that the “mess would be turned into a message” and “a test into a testimony.”

Mitch Moore, who started out the school years as principal before taking a job at Central Office, was the first to speak from the stage.

“What a great evening,” Moore said. “It must be celebrated.

“Little did we know that March 6 would be the last day at Brownwood High School. Unlike any other year, we would not be allowed to return because of a national pandemic.”

Moore noted that “disappointment grew as more and more activities were canceled. However, you will be remembered for your determination to finish in a non-traditional manner. You persevered, through hard times of isolation and setback.”

Nothing is fair about how the graduates’ senior year ended up, Moore said. “But I want you to know, you made my last year at Brownwood High School one of the very best, and that cannot be duplicated.”

Salutatorian James Bautista spoke against prejudice and racism in his commencement speech. “All lives matter,” Bautista said before taking up the theme that “black lives matter.”

Valedictorian Caden Reagan noted that educators “have had to reinvent education on the fly and have done a great job leading us through this coronavirus pandemic. We are all in uncharted waters.

“It’s in times like this that I am thankful that there is a power greater than all of us who has a plan and in control. … we came into the world around 9-11 when the country was distraught. Now it’s our senior year and we are experiencing one of the most important times of our lives virtually.”

Reagan said his father, Ryan, has told him “life is not about what happens to you. It is about how you react and adjust.”

“Victim mentality, when things viewed as negative happen to you, is not healthy,” Reagan continued. “We can’t control what cards we are dealt, but we do have control over how we play those cards.”

Reagan, a golfer, used a golfing analogy.

“Sometimes we are in the fairway and on the green, and life is going well,” Reagan said. “Can we still mess up from there? Of course.

“But our odds of success are way better from those places. Do your best to stay in those places in life.”

Reagan acknowledged that “we will, no matter how good we are, hit some balls in the water, in the sand, behind the trees or in the tall grass. Figure out how the best way is to play your ball, then put your plan in action.

“Sometimes bogeys are OK, but remember it is still possible possible to make a birdie when things don’g go perfect. Good things can come in unexpected ways.”

Brownwood school district leaders including Superintendent Dr. Joe Young (left), school board president Michael Cloy (center) and former principal Mitch Moore face Brownwood High School graduates Friday evening at Gordon Wood Stadium.