By Bruce Harper Karnes Countywide staff

RUNGE – The class of 2019 for the Yellowjackets at Runge High School picked up their hard earned diplomas Friday, May 31, ending one teenaged endeavor of their young lives and moving on to the next phase of adulthood.

The ceremony was highlighted by the salutatorian and valedictorian addresses by Kyndle Hackney and Caleigh Briley, respectively, the top two students in the graduating class and close friends.

Hackney will be attending the University of Texas at San Antonio in the fall, majoring in business. Her hope is to find a company to work for that reflects her own values and character.

Briley will be enrolling at Texas A&M University in College Station in the fall. She has already been accepted into he Communications Honors Degree Program. Briley wants to pursue a career in broadcast journalism.

Hackney’s salutatorian speech was first on the program. She thanked everyone in attendance for coming and for all their support over the years for herself and her classmates.

“This was a long journey that, at times, seemed never ending. But, here we are, on graduation day,” Hackney said.

She explained she remembered her first day of kindergarten, waking up tired and just wanting to get the day over with. Her mother, Pat Hackney, was right there capturing the precious moment on video. 

“Little did I know, that would be the epitome of my years in school,” said Hackney.

“The day of our graduation, I woke up feeling the same way, tired and wanting to get this over with, but filled with pride and joy, to be standing here, before you all, representing my class as salutatorian.”

She went on to thank her family and friends for their support and love. She thanked Runge High School. “Runge High has cultivated me into the person I am today, by providing me with a place to grow and blossom.” 

To her classmates, in closing, Hackney quoted a Dr. Seuss line: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

She added, “Life will get tough and sometimes scary, but I am ever confident that we all have the capacity and have been given the tools to succeed in our future endeavors. 

“Each and every one of your futures are as bright and unique as each and every one of you. Good luck and thank you,” Hackney said.

The valedictory address by Briley began by her stating, “We have all had the privilege of attending school in Runge. Not every valedictorian gets to stand before her graduating class and see faces that she has seen every day since kindergarten.”

Briley expressed how each graduate is headed down a different path in life. 

“Whatever it is you decide to do, do it with all your heart,” Briley said.

She went on to thank her parents and family for their love and support. 

The education and opportunities provided by Runge High School also drew praise.

“Thank you to Runge High School for gifting me with so many opportunities, experiences and beautiful friendships. My life truly has been changed by my time as a Yellowjacket,” Briley said.

And, with one last message to her fellow graduates, “...follow your dreams to the fullest. No dream is too big and never let anybody’s opinion determine your path, but your own.”

The graduates all received heir diplomas and began their new phase of their young lives.