Last week's Leaving Tree Tradition, Virtual Baccalaureate Chapel, and Commencement celebrations joyfully capped off the Class of 2021's four years at Episcopal High School.
Saturday morning, May 15, the seniors arrived in socially distanced groups to kick off the fun weekend with the annual Leaving Tree tradition. As they heard their names called by Dean John Colello, they placed their leaves on the wall-sculpture tree near Trinity Courtyard and posed for photos with their parents and guardians.
In the pre-recorded Chapel for Baccalaureate that evening at 5:00 p.m., The Rt. Rev. Hector Monterroso, Bishop Assistant of the Diocese of Texas, addressed the Baccalaureate viewers. Bishop Monterroso emphasized the importance of being open to change in our lives and nurturing a strong faith in God. He shared that while growing up in Guatemala, he considered many careers, from soccer player to engineer, to astronomer to businessman. By adapting to change and taking a few calculated risks, such as moving to the United States, he advanced in his career as an Episcopal priest to become a bishop in Texas."Everything worthwhile contains risk," he said. "Chase your dreams, help others, and do your best.... The values you receive here such as faith and prayer, are tools you can use...And remember, God always walks beside you."
The following day, Sunday, May 16, the seniors and their families braved a series of rain showers to gather for the Commencement event on Simmons Field. Head of School Ned Smith, Grade Level Dean Jess Adams, and Principal Kim Randolph started the evening by revealing the Senior Award winners to the attendees. Alexa Hendricks was announced as the 2021 valedictorian and Jake Siegel was named salutatorian. Mateo Bastidas was named Outstanding Male Student and Alena Haney was named Outstanding Female Student. The Spirit Award went to Randall Holstead, the Citizenship Award to Gloria Ni, the Head of School Awards went to Gwen Rippeto and Donovan Jackson, and the Jess Borg Award went to Jaquon Marion.
Commencement speaker Donovan Jackson applauded his classmates and said that if ever a group epitomized the phrase, "Knights Stand Out," this group of seniors qualifies. The Class of 2021, he pointed out, overcame Hurricane Harvey, tropical storms, a Texas deep freeze—and the global pandemic. "We have everything we need to overcome adversity. Now is the time to create our legacy in the world," Jackson advised. He concluded his speech with Coach Steve Leisz's trademark sayings, "Don't Be Afraid, and Go Knights!"
With a boost of fortuitous timing by Mother Nature, the clouds parted and the sun began to shine as the last few seniors walked on stage to receive their diplomas. The Rev. Beth Holden then blessed the graduates, and Head of School Ned Smith presented the Class of 2021 to the crowd.
In total, this diverse and talented group of 184 seniors gained acceptances at more than 225 colleges and universities throughout the United States and abroad, where they have earned more than $20 million in scholarships and grants.