As the sun set over Rose Stadium, an era came to an end for more than 500 Robert E. Lee seniors.

Thousands of friends and families came to cheer as the 520 seniors of the Class of 2019 walked the stage at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium on Friday night.

Balloons, giant cutouts of students’ face and other celebratory items dotted the stadium as the crowd exploded in cheers as the student procession began.

“We know that this is the end of one journey and tomorrow morning you will begin another,” Principal Dan Crawford told the graduates. “And we know that whatever you do, you will be successful.”

Salutatorian Ethan Barton congratulated his classmates for their hard work and sacrifices, cheering them on as they prepared for the next step in their journey.

“High school’s over, and here we go, onward, into the blank pages of whatever comes next,” Barton said. “The introduction has concluded, the exciting part begins.”

Valedictorian Jonathan Graham encouraged his classmates to take the lessons they’ve learned about teamwork and apply them to their futures.

"Regardless of each of our backgrounds, our circumstances, our preconceived notions, in the end — in the continuing — we are all one team," Graham said. "When we work together, we might make progress."

Graham told his classmates not to be afraid to take on controversial issues if it’s the right thing to do.

“Sometimes hope is all that is needed to start something big,” he said. "As you leave here tonight, don't judge the world for its corruption. Rather, value it for its potential.”

Graham will continue his education at Washington College, working toward degrees in chemical and environmental engineering. Barton is headed to Baylor University as an interdisciplinary studies scholar.

John Tyler High School graduation will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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