SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Santa Fe, Texas - it's been a vexing and tragic year for the class of 2018. At the start, Hurricane Harvey flooded their community and delayed senior year. Then two weeks before graduation, a mass shooting at their high school killed 10 people. It made last night's graduation especially emotional. Houston Public Radio's Laura Isensee has the story.
(SOUNDBITE OF EDWARD ELGAR'S "POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE")
LAURA ISENSEE, BYLINE: The graduation ceremony had many of the familiar rituals. Some 300 seniors wore green caps and gowns as they processed in the Texas heat across the football field.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Congratulations to the graduating seniors of the Class of 2018.
INSENSEE: But there was also heightened security and memorials for the 10 students and staff who were slain in the mass shooting. Here is School Board President Rusty Norman.
RUSTY NORMAN: All of graduates and staff members are wearing the white stoles in memory of our fallen students.
INSENSEE: Then Norman asked the crowd to stand and take a moment of silence for the victims. The school tried to balance the joy of graduation with grief.
AARON CHENOWETH: There's so many emotions flowing in and flowing out of you. And it's hard to react the right way.
INSENSEE: Aaron Chenoweth played on the football team and plans to attend the University of Houston downtown.
CHENOWETH: It's hard. And we want to never forget these people. But it's hard to think about it and talk about it again. I would like to treat this thing as a normal ceremony.
INSENSEE: Still, Chenoweth couldn't help but think about his former football buddy Chris Stone, a junior he says was like a little brother and was one of those killed. Ten seniors created their own mini memorial. They clutched framed photos of the victims as they received their diplomas. Kimberly Martinez (ph) carried one of Jared Black.
KIMBERLY MARTINEZ: I always just look to the brighter side and know that he's in a better place. They're all in a better place. Instead of down here sweating, they're all up there watching us.
INSENSEE: Santa Fe's valedictorian Corrigan Garcia looked to the future.
CORRIGAN GARCIA: Moving on will be tough. Nothing will ever be the same for any of us. But we all have a choice to make.
INSENSEE: Part of that choice, Garcia says, is to be brave and optimistic as they head into the world. For NPR News, I'm Laura Isensee in Houston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.