New beginnings are old hat for the Refugio High School graduating class of 2021.
Upon entering their lives as Bobcats, the 47 graduates saw their lives torn asunder by Hurricane Harvey, having to rebuild throughout freshman and sophomore years. After nearly gaining normalcy, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Bobcats into another new identity as remote learners.
With beginning after beginning brought on by cruel circumstances, this new chapter was written with a smile at Jack Sportsman Bobcat Stadium May 28.
Representing the RHS class in addresses were valedictorian Reyna Gallegos and salutatorian Zavien Wills. Gallegos, reliving the events of Harvey and COVID in her head, stood proudly as she described her constituents.
“This class is filled with resilience, and it is with that resilience that we are able to achieve anything that our heart desires.”
In an emotional speech, Gallegos recounted moving from Mexico at the age of 7, thanking her family for allowing her to succeed. She used the experience to pass on a life lesson in motivation.
“Moving to a new country is hard, and starting a new life is hard. As we embark on our next journey, whether it is college or a job, I hope that you remember where you come from ... as we continue on with our life, remember that it is okay to not know, but it is not okay to not try.”
The class’ top-ranking senior received several scholarships that were announced during graduation, including the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi institutional presidential scholarship worth $16,000. Gallegos also received the Texas Education Agency’s highest ranking senior honor worth $4,719.
The success came through a senior year Gallegos described as “filled with procrastination, love, hate and tears,” something she believes readied herself and her class for the outside world.
“When life gets hard, keep going. Things are going to fall into place, I promise. You may not understand your current obstacle right now, but eventually you will, and it will all make sense. Everything is coming together like it should.”
Wills preceded Gallegos with more words of wisdom for the class, wanting his fellow Bobcats to “continue to achieve excellence.”
“I am extremely proud of all we have accomplished these past four years,” Wills said. “The class of 2021 is strong, determined, and willing to succeed. We may not have the biggest class, but we definitely have one of the biggest hearts.”
A star player for Bobcat football, Wills thanked his teammates and the RHS fanbase for his time on the turf. He also recounted the four years of strife through weather and pandemic alike.
“Through the adversity we have been faced with, we have made the best of each year of high school. Senior year included, mask and all.”
Wills also took home several scholarships, including the Jack Sportsman Memorial Lions Club scholarship worth $1,250, the Refugio County Chamber of Commerce outstanding senior scholarship worth $1,000, and the Two Broke Cookers scholarship worth $1,000.
In total, the RHS class of 2021 was awarded approximately $255,219 in scholarship funding. The announcements were made by counselor Samantha Meza, who beamed with pride introducing her accomplished students.
“It has been a priviledge to watch you all grow into mature, young adults,” she said. “I look forward to hearing about all of your future accomplishments, and I hope that each of you have the opportunity to excel in all that your heart desires.”
The largest scholarship award of the night went to Lady Cat track and field state champion Jai’lin King, who secured $194,000 worth of funding from the University of the Incarnate Word. The San Antonio university gave King the scholarship based on both athletic and academic achievement.
Other notable scholarships announced during the ceremony included:
• Natalie Martinez: Benefits for enlisting in the United States Army.
• Nathan Meza: Hilcorp Future Leaders of America scholarship worth $10,000.
• Yahir Placencia: Copano Bay Soil and Water Conservation scholarship worth $500, Refugio Lions Club scholarship worth $1,000, Texas A&M-Kingsville academic excellence scholarship worth $3,000.
• Jakub Lee: Community Cemetery Association of Refugio scholarship worth $1,000, Rooke Foundation scholarship worth $1,500.
• Celeste Lara: Refugio Crop Tour scholarship worth $300, 4-H booster club scholarship worth $500, scholarship group scholarship worth $1,200.
• Leslie Velasco: Refugio County Retired School Personnel scholarship worth $500, Refugio Lions Club scholarship worth $1,000.
• Alex Ramirez: RISD school board scholarship worth $1,500.
• Isabella Delgado: RISD school board scholarship worth $1,500.
• Landon Parson: Community Cemetery Association of Refugio scholarship worth $1,000.
Graduating with magna cum laude honors from the class were Benjamin De Nava, Velasco, Placencia, Jasmin Lopez, King, Niyha Green, Josclyn Olbera, Madison Wills, Lee, Krischelle Rodriguez and Anay Martinez. Lara and Madison Moya graduated with cum laude honors.
The ceremony concluded with a singing of the alma mater, with the class locking hands in song one last time. The 47 then came to the center of Bobcat Stadium and threw their caps into the air as a signal for the future.
After all, this beginning was brighter than most others.