Two-hundred sixty-six Thomas Jefferson High School graduates crossed the stage at Alfred J. Loos for the class of 2023 commencement ceremony.
Due to the October 2019 tornado their freshman year and the pandemic hitting the next semester, “perseverance” was a common theme throughout the ceremony’s speeches.
Noe Murillo, senior class president, opened by congratulating students and thanking guests for supporting the class of 2023.
“We have persevered, worked diligently, and now, we take a major step forward on the path of life,” Murillo said. “Remember, when we started, long before the wind blew us to west Dallas, and when the virus ‘Zoom’ed us online, think about how much we have grown, learned, and sacrificed.”
Principal Ben Jones has led the campus since fall 2021 and thanked students for choosing to stick with Thomas Jefferson High School, despite having the opportunity to move schools when the campus was destroyed.
“Class of 2023, you have taken every challenge and turned it into an opportunity — an opportunity to show just how tough, determined, and committed you are,” Jones said. “Because of your focus, drive, and determination, the class of 2023 continues the TJ trend of breaking records.”
Some of these record include:
- One-hundred percent of graduates have demonstrated college and career readiness.
- More than 70% of graduates applied to a four-year college or university.
- More than 50% of graduates are choosing to attend a four-year college or university, and more than 70& are continuing their education at either a two- or four-year university.
- The class “shattered the record” for scholarships earned by a graduating class at Thomas Jefferson High School — a total of $15.4 million.
“You have raised the bar yet again for a graduating class at Thomas Jefferson High School,” Jones said.
Salutatorian Cithlaly Crispin, who will be attending the University of North Texas in the fall to major in media arts, told graduates that they all have the potential to achieve something great.
“Don’t be scared to try something new,” Crispin said. “I may have literally killed my hair with bleach, but it makes me happy, and that’s enough. I hope to make more decisions like that as I move on from here.”
For the last student speech, valedictorian Gerardo Mendoza described his last four years as a “whirlwind, and in more ways than one.” He will be attending the University of Texas at Austin in the fall to study petroleum engineering.
“In the face of this overwhelming adversity, we continued our education (and) continued our learning, and now, we have reached a milestone here today,” Mendoza said. “If we learned anything these past four years, we’ve learned that life is not fair.”
Mendoza also shared that adversity made his graduating class stronger.
“In our shared challenges and our shared success, we have also found a strong sense of community,” Mendoza said. “From that community, the deep friendships, the intellectual and academic relationships, and every bond that we form, we find the influences that guide us to our next step.”
Before students crossed the stage, District 1 trustee Dr. Edwin Flores delivered the final words of wisdom for the graduates.
“This truly is an honor to be here with you because of the … amazing resiliency you have shown,” Flores said. “You have lived through two events that usually only happen about every 100 years.”
Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde at last took the stage to confirm the graduates in her “Thomas Jefferson sparkly red high-heel shoes.”
After crossing the stage one-by-one, Thomas Jefferson’s newest alumni sang the alma mater together before exiting the venue.