Center Roughrider Academy Spring Graduation Ceremony

June 9, 2021 - Article updated with the speeches delivered by Brookelynn Bridges and Daniela Leon.

June 7, 2021 (Photo Album) - Roughrider Academy celebrated with a graduation commencement ceremony on Thursday, June 3, 2021 for the Spring Class of 2021.

The Spring 2021 graduates are:

  • Callie Suzanne Adams (Dual Credit Hours 12, Roughrider Scholarship, Bone Hill Scholarship)
  • Dakota Lavon Bailey (Dual Credit Hours 24, Roughrider Scholarship, Bone Hill Scholarship, Panola College Scholarship)
  • Kendall Candence Bauer
  • Chance Javion Bell
  • Ashley Lynn Bluford (Roughrider Scholarship, Bone Hill Scholarship)
  • Brookelynn Leighann Bridges (Dual Credit Hours 3, Roughrider Scholarship, Bone Hill Scholarship)
  • Jose Luis Carrillo-Perez
  • Anahi Castillo (Dual Credit Hours 15)
  • Elvia Marie Chable  (Dual Credit Hours 9)
  • Caden Slade Collins (OSHA Safety Certification)
  • Madylyn Brooke Davis (Roughrider Scholarship, Bone Hill Scholarship)
  • Tobias Markwavious Gossett (OSHA Safety Certification)
  • Adam Ethan Lawson (Roughrider Scholarship, Bone Hill Scholarship)
  • Daniela Leon (Dual Credit Hours 27, Roughrider Scholarship, Bone Hill Scholarship, Panola College Scholarship)
  • Brannon Michael Love (Dual Credit Hours 4, Center ISD Employee Scholarship)
  • Christian DJuan Polley (Industry Welding Certification, Dual Credit Hours 6)
  • Ja'Kenreon Tiontae Roland (OSHA Safety Certification)
  • Christina Annamarie Stotts (Roughrider Scholarship, Bone Hill Scholarship)
  • Cody Seth Thompson (Dual Credit Hours 8)
  • Xavier Latrell Ware (OSHA Safety Certification, Dual Credit Hours 6)

Student addresses were made during the ceremony by Brookelynn Bridges and Daniela Leon. Their speeches received a standing ovation.

Daniela Leon’s Speech:

I’d like to thank all of you for coming to celebrate this big moment and accomplishment with us. There have been plenty of challenges put in front of us in the past year, and I am proud of all of us for being able to make it past them. I’ve been asked to share some of my experiences with you all today. Before I start, I’d like to thank my parents for always staying by my side, cheering me on and for taking care of me when I couldn’t do regular things such as change my clothes and/or stand up on my own. I’d also like to thank Mr. Hagler, Ms. Tillery, and especially Mrs. Fischer for all believing in me and making this short journey with Roughrider Academy something wonderful. Seriously, these people are amazing. 

I started off the school year strong. I had 3 college classes, was going to school every day, and was in, what I thought was, perfect health. However, this reality soon collapsed, back in October. I started missing school everyday due to a pain that wouldn’t let me walk. I was later diagnosed with a tumor, and later found out that the tumor (all FIFTEEN pounds of it) was cancerous. 

I continued as a student at Center High School under the Homebound program from November until January when I finally decided to join Roughrider Academy. This decision was one of the hardest yet best decisions I made for myself. I had to leave my friends, and had to leave teachers who had impacted my life greatly. But I was finally able to work at my own pace without having to worry about having due dates and my absences counted against me. With this opportunity finally in my grasp, I was able to finish my courses in the span of two months where I officially finished March 9th. Now here I stand today, finally wrapping this chapter of my life.

What I want all of you to take from this is that we shouldn’t take what we have for granted, because it could all change in the matter of seconds. People don’t say this for no reason. It is something that we hear all the time, but it doesn’t really click until something major happens. I thought I was going to have a “normal” senior year, when in reality it was far from that. I went through a major surgery, three rounds of chemotherapy, many many trips to doctor appointments and emergency rooms. Things didn’t go as I thought they might. Many of my fellow graduates could say the same thing...It wasn’t what we thought it would be. BUT WE ARE GRADUATING! And we are moving on into brighter days with great memories and a new appreciation for what IS ours! Friends... Family... and a promising Future! 

One of my favorite artists is Jon Bellion. In his song “Hand of God”, he writes, “ My mother says, ‘Your whole life’s in the Hand of God’....When you’re lost in the universe, don’t lose faith.” In another song, “Maybe IDK” he writes: 

“I guess IF I knew tomorrow - I guess I wouldn’t need FAITH. 

I guess IF I never fell, I guess I wouldn’t need grace. And 

I guess IF I knew HIS plans, I guess HE wouldn’t be God!

Maybe I don’t know, but maybe that’s okay!”

So, my fellow GRADUATES, in the words of Mr. Thomas Murray: 

“Be BOLD. Be FEARLESS. Be PROUD. Be YOU. Your story is not finished yet!” You can rest assured that your life is in Good Hands!

Brooklyn Bridges' Speech:

What an honor to be standing here before you tonight! Class of 2021, WE MADE IT! So many of you, like me, had been counted out by the “old school” mentality. We had two strikes against us when we came to Roughrider Academy, but the faculty and staff here did NOT count us OUT! So, here we are tonight about to graduate! What’s more, we will keep going to achieve more of our goals that -not so long ago- were barely dreams. 

Most of us thought this day would never come. We prayed for its quick delivery, crossed days off our calendars, counted hours, minutes and seconds and now that it’s here, I’m sorry it is, because it means leaving friends who have inspired me, teachers who have been my mentors, and so many people who have shaped my life. 

When I first started Rider Academy, I planned on just getting in and out as fast as possible. What I didn’t expect was to find friendship in not only the students, but also the teachers. Mrs. Betty & Mrs.Fischer are a huge part of the reason that I graduated, without them constantly pushing me, I promise I wouldn’t be standing in front of you today. 

A little backstory so you understand me better. I was 15 years old and 6 months pregnant when I started Rider Academy. More people than I would like to admit had told me that there was NO WAY I was going to be able to graduate while taking care of a child. Many people suggested adoption, some suggested just dropping out. I stayed true to my heart and am now a 2021 graduate with an almost 2 year daughter. There were days that I came to school absolutely exhausted from the baby keeping me up all night and I wanted to do nothing but sleep! But neither Mrs. Fischer nor Betty would let that happen. On those days, they gave me an extra push, an extra word of wisdom or even let me cry it out of my system, depending on what was going on. The staff at Rider Academy never gave up on me, even when I wanted to give up on myself! 

The thing that most students are excited about when starting the Academy is going half a day and graduating early, but what we don’t see is how much of a family we all become. I’ve never seen a school where kids come and visit after they graduate, but with the Academy, it’s a weekly thing to see a past student dropping by to say hey and share their current successes. We all can’t wait to get out, but the minute we do, we realize how much we’re going to miss it. 

So let me again say thank you to the board of education for allowing the Academy to be an opportunity at all. For the continuous support and funding, allowing academy students to keep going and doing great things.

To the parents, most of you were probably skeptical at first, I know my family was. I know your child thanks you for taking that step because here they sit about to graduate. 

Last but certainly not least, I want to say a huge thank you to the staff of Roughrider Academy, Mrs. Klein for always being cheerful, even on bad days, Coach Jackson for the long but helpful history groups and being able to answer any math question, trust me I would know, I asked him most of them, Mrs. Jody who kept up with hours upon hours of makeup time and added minutes whenever she could. A special thank you to Mrs. Tillery for cookies, credits, a couch and an open ear 24/7. To Mrs.Fischer who always knows just what to say..and maybe not always when to stop (laughter). Mrs.Betty for always being a constant nagger and never settling for less than the best from us. And Finally Mr. Hagler, constantly driving us to be there or be square, and by square I mean him showing up at your front door if you aren’t there. 

So to my fellow graduates, if you take anything from your time at RoughRider Academy, I hope it’s knowing that you beat the odds and graduated and you will always have a family at Rider Academy cheering you on.