DS Class of 2017 ends in the dark (with a surprising bang!)


DSHS Valedictorian Rachel Nix and Salutatorian Michael Martinets before start of processional.

Alice Adams


The first official event to be held in the phenomenal new Tiger Stadium - the 2017 Dripping Springs High School Graduation Exercises - was blessed by pitch-perfect weather but delayed by 10 minutes due to the less-than-perfect traffic jam on Highway 290.

However, at exactly 8:10 p.m. DSHS Band Director Keith Lancaster launched the Wind Ensemble into the ever-familiar "Pomp and Circumstance" as the members of the Class of 2017 - clad in traditionally tasseled maroon caps and gowns with a gold stripe at the cuff - made their way into the stadium, filling almost 400 seats positioned in front of their academic mentors, administrators and an audience of families and other well-wishers.

Notably, this was the first graduating class in Dripping Springs High School history graduating in ceremonies held in Dripping Springs proper.

With Student Council officers sharing the duties as master of ceremonies, Hunter Tole opened the program by asking the audience to join in the Pledge of Allegiance and The Texas Pledge. With the audience still standing, the Dripping Springs Jazz Cats Senior choral group sang a moving a capella arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner."

Gabrielle Hendrix led the invocation, while Hannah Gustafson formally welcomed the crowd. Nicole Cross paid tribute to the many contributions of the high school's faculty, and Haley Foster recognized the parents in the audience and thanked them for their roles in their students' academic growth.

Hannah Gustafson then stepped to the front of the stage, performing NeedToBreathe's "Brother," a truly fitting piece in its message, "Brother, let me be your shelter, Never leave you all alone...Let me be your fortress...be the one to light the way, Bring you home."

Salutatorian Michael Martinez provided a funny, self-deprecating speech, sprinkled with words of wisdom, followed by Valedictorian Rachel Nix, who pointed out the aspects of DSHS she found unique and beneficial.  

Carrie Kroll, president of DSISD’s Board of Trustees, and Principal Joe Burns awarded diplomas. Jeff Bixby announced candidates.

A few seniors exhibited their gymnastics and dance skills before receiving their diplomas -- all well done, it should be noted -- and the graduates, start to finish, conducted themselves as the mature and poised young adults they have become.

DSISD Superintendent Bruce Gearing certified the graduates for meeting the requirements and standards of the school district, as well as the academic requirements of the State of Texas. Gearing commented on the high bar of excellence set by this year's graduating class, saying, "Thanks to the teachers, coaches, sponsors and mentors who have helped guide these students to success," in closing.

DSHS Principal Joe Burns echoed the superintendent's accolades, including the fact that close to $4 million in college scholarships had been earned, collectively, by Class of '17 students. He also named graduates earning appointments to the various U.S. Military Academies and those who would soon be headed for active duty in the various branches of the U.S. Military, wishing them success and thanking them in advance for their service to our country.

The noted short-story Author O. Henry, once jailed in Austin, was renowned for his surprise endings, but O. had nothing on the people who planned this graduation ceremony.

Suddenly, at around 10:30 p.m., the stadium went completely dark, stopping in their tracks those leaving the stands to get ahead of traffic and causing many attendees to think, "That's a problem the lighting contractors will definitely have to correct before football season."  But just then, the air over the field was filled with a brilliant-and-noisy, five-minute fireworks display, obviously unexpected by the grads...and the audience, too.

Cheering accompanied the pyrotechnics, and as the last of the glittering reds, blues, whites, pinks and greens faded from view, the public address system began booming Kool & The Gang's "Celebration!" -- a perfect ending to a perfect inaugural evening for the new Tiger Stadium and an exciting and joy-filled send-off for this year's DSHS graduates. 

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