Hope High graduates 164 under fine weather Friday evening
Friday evening at the home of the Bobcats, the 164 members of the class of 2024 collected their degrees under a blue sky in Hammons Stadium. 

After the graduates-to-be, clad in maroon gowns, marched down the west side line of the football field and took their seats as the band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” Hope High Principal Kim Dunham, standing at the podium welcomed all to the graduation and introduced a group of Scouts of America Troop 5 who presented the colors, raising the U.S. flag just to the east of southern goalposts. Dunham then led the pledge of allegiance, and the band accompanied many members of the audience in the national anthem. 

Jalen Staggers, Agri-Business, Agriculture Power, Structural & Tech and Boys State Completer, gave the invocation. Dunham then introduced each member of the School Board present, which turned out to be all of them. They were applauded. Then Dunham introduced Superintendent Jonathan Crossley who gave the occasion’s opening remarks. 

Crossley likened the students to turtles on fenceposts who did not get there by themselves and thanked the “parents, friends, family members” who helped the seniors get to their graduation day. He also paid tribute to a student not present to collect his diploma. “I want to recognize the family of Blessing Ross. We have a picture there in the audience. Blessing passed away a few years ago from illness, and I just want to acknowledge the family and their love and our classmates’ love for him as well,” Crossley said. 

Crossley then advised the seniors that while they were there to celebrate their accomplishments, in their futures they should “embrace the challenges that come with failure.”  He continued, “the lesson that nobody really teaches you well in high school, even though we may try is that when you get out in the real world, the lessons that you will really learn will most likely be through failure. … Don't be scared of the things that life has for you, that God has for you because what God has for you, is for you. And you'll never know what those things are unless you just go for it.” 

Then Sallie Nix, Director of the Hope Collegiate Academy, recognized the 21 graduates of that program who collected their credentials this past Tuesday night at Hempstead Hall on the campus of University of Arkansas-Hope-Texarkana. 

Hope High Assistant Principal Jeffrey Burton read the names of the 36 Honor Graduates.  

Student speaker and Summa Cum Laude graduate Brency Cabriales, FACS Completer, National Honor Society member, Girls State Completer and Blood Donor came to the podium to thank God, her parents and her sisters. She also thanked her family “for being the best support system I can rely on for the certainty that I am not alone and for showing up to all my games and believing in me when I didn't believe in myself.” She also thanked her coaches, her school and teachers and staff. 

“Luckily as Hope High School graduates, we have been given all the paper and ink we need to write our own stories, which I am certain will be New York Times bestsellers,” Cabriales said. "Go forth and conquer, knowing that God has the power to shape you and guide you to your destiny. And remember, no matter where our future may lead us, we will always be family because once a Bobcat, always a Bobcat.” 

Next, student speaker Amber Cisneros, Magna Cum Laude Graduate as well as National Honors Society member thanked all those that helped her get to graduation day, then addressed her classmates, posing a few test question. “Anyone familiar with how diamonds are made? A diamond, the rarest of precious metals is sought out because of its fascinating look, uncommon characteristics and supreme qualities … Diamonds are created through thousands of years of intense heat and pressure. ... That's exactly what we are, diamonds in the rough created through pressure.” 

In closing, Cisneros urged her classmates to “always listen to your inner voice and strive to become the best version of yourself, no matter the pressure you may face at any point in life. Recognize that it is through this process that will allow you to become more than you ever thought possible, a diamond shining through it all. Congratulations, Hope High School Class of 2024. We did it and I'll see you in 10 years for the class reunion.” 

Assistant Principal Teresa James introduced guest speaker State Senator Linda Pondexter Chesterfield, a Hope native, 1965 graduate of Henry C. Yerger High School, the first African-American graduate of Hendrix College (B.A.) and a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University (M.S.E) who now represents the 30h district in the Arkansas Senate, which includes southeastern Pulaski County.

“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy in life does not lie in failing to reach your goal,” Chesterfield began. “The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It is not a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled. What is a calamity? Not to dream. It is not a disaster to fail to capture your ideal but it is a disaster to have no ideal to catch. It is not a disgrace to fail to reach the stars. Oh, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for. Not failure. Not failure but low aim is seen. And we are here today, because you have dared to aim high. Congratulations seniors. Congratulate yourselves.” 

She explained that when the seniors’ parents bet on them to achieve great things, that doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a politician, a superintendent or school board member. “They mean being good human beings, knowing how to treat each other, knowing how to act civilly toward each other,” Chesterfield said. “We are living in a time when people think it's okay to say anything at all to you, any way they want to. They have found a way to do it surreptitiously. Now, through all this social media, they can cut down people on social media and nobody knows who they are. And sometimes you have allowed it to get to you. Well, let me say this to you. They don't matter. They don't matter. What matters is where are you going from today?” 

In closing, Chesterfield said, "Understand that in life, nothing happens without a struggle … So I leave you with the words of Frederick Douglass who said if there is no struggle, there is no progress.” 

After the applause, the presentation of diplomas began as all 164 names of the year’s graduates were read. The band played the Alma Mater, whose lyrics the audience could sing because of their inclusion in the day’s written program. 

Then Hope High Principal Kimberly Dunham said the words that made the graduation official, that conferred on behalf of the school and the state department of education the rights and privileges of being a high school graduate to the members of the Class of 2024.  “You can now move your tassels,” she added.  After she presented the class to the audience, the mortarboards were thrown aloft in the hearty tradition of graduation celebrations everywhere and the ceremony was done. “Pomp and Circumstance” was reprised by the Hope Band as the graduates proceeded in a line off the Hammons Stadium field.