More than 100 students moved, strutted and swayed across the Van Alstyne High School stage Friday night, after outgoing superintendent John Spies certified that they had met all the Texas state requirements to become high school graduates. It was windy night and a little hot, high school principal Jeremiah Johnson said, but by about 8 p.m., it “turned out to be a beautiful evening.”


The Van Alstyne High School Class of 2017 was filled with dedicated and hard-working students, said Johnson. He and a committee of his teachers, with help from the board of trustees, planned the ceremonies held outdoors at Panther Stadium.


“It was a packed house,” Johnson said, adding there may not even have been one extra seat left available. “The incoming senior class has 122 students, and we will continue to be small in size for a while, but sometime … we’ll have to search for another location. For now, we have and like that small, hometown atmosphere.”


Valedictorian Cage Sawyers, who graduated with a 4.51 grade point average, themed his speech about Van Alstyne, stressing that each of them should never forget where they came from or everybody who helped them grow up. Salutatorian Bryan Alexander Jackson, with a 4.4 grade point average, also remembered the family, teachers, the community and all those who helped him with his achievements.


“Overall, the kids did really great, they really tried,” Johnson said.


The GPAs for the Top 10 percent honor graduates ranged from that 4.51 to 4.15. There were numerous students with community service medals, signifying they had provided at least 320 hours of community service during their four high school years.


“In all, those students provided more than 12,000 hours total,” Johnson said. “One student, Angelica Botello, had about 1,200 hours of community service.”


There were also blood donors, who were recognized for donating numerous pints of blood during their senior years.


“Many have earned the (maximum) total of 34 hours in duel (college credits), many others earned between 20-30 college hours,” Johnson said. “They can now enter college as mid-sophomore students. One student, Hunter Grisham, already has received his associate’s degree; and Landon Pardee will be getting his associate’s degree soon, both from Grayson College and both in welding.”


“Cage is going on full academic scholarship, one of the few nationwide who received a Coca-Cola scholar honor, to Texas Christian University,” Johnson added. “Bryan is going to the University of Texas. This whole class has many who are college-bound.”


Johnson, obviously proud of the class of 2017, identified one distinguishing factor of excellence among the students.


“They excelled in many areas — some academically, some in fine arts or athletics or other extra-curricular activities such as FFA,” Johnson said. “This group worked hard, they did a good job of following directions and made the ceremony go through well.”


After the seniors crossed the stage, they shook hands or hugged the trustee members, and all of the teachers who were still around they’d had during their years at Van Alstyne Independent School District


“We are all very proud of them,” Johnson said. “My favorite part was when they sang the school song at the end, and that was only the second time that had ever happened,” Johnson said, adding that it misted his eyes up a little bit.


“They are all going to miss each other the most,” he concluded.