Waxahachie Global High School celebrated the graduation of its first class of seniors Friday evening.

Sixty students walked the stage to receive their high school diplomas and, of those, all had earned college credits under Global High’s Early College partnership with Navarro College. Forty had earned at least 24 college hours – and 24 members of the class of 2011 had received their associate’s degrees in a ceremony at Navarro College last weekend.

“I am proud of the achievements of the senior class,” principal Donald Snook told the capacity audience that filled the district’s Fine Arts Center.

Four years ago, 101 students initially signed up for Global High, with Snook remarking of the 60 who sat behind him on the stage, “These are not ordinary students.”

Global High started out as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academy emphasizing smaller class sizes, project-based learning and technology, before adding in an early college focus two years ago.

“You accepted the challenges,” Snook told the seniors before remarking to the numerous parents, relatives and friends on hand, “Normally, early college programs are four years (in which to obtain an associate’s degree). They did it in two. I think that’s a remarkable achievement.”

Navarro College – Ellis County campuses president, Dr. Harold Nolte, delivered the commencement address.

“You’re the first class to graduate (from Global High) and I am so proud of you,” he said, calling on the students to finish their higher educations and serve in leadership roles in the future. “Come back to Waxahachie and be our future leaders.”

A fourth-generation educator, Nolte spoke of his love for community colleges, saying he first attended one in Waco with the thought of only taking a few classes. The experience was such he stayed and went on to receive his associate’s degree. Later, after receiving his master’s degree at Baylor University, Nolte said he began working for a community college, a career he continues today.

“Community college has been my friend, my life, and now it’s part of yours,” he told the seniors. “Congratulations on a job well done. You’ve totally inspired me and the community.”

Not a day goes by he isn’t stopped somewhere and asked about Global High and the Early College program, Nolte said, with Waxahachie ISD board president, Dr. Joe Langley, remarking on the college tuition savings of up to $60,000 for each of the students and their parents.

As a STEM/Early College campus, the total class size for Global High is limited to 100, with Langley noting that 125 applications already have been filed seeking admission to the next freshman class.

“More and more, Waxahachie understands what a gem, what a diamond we have in Waxahachie Global High. … I want to say congratulations to all of these graduates up here tonight,” he said.

Snook said the estimated $300,000 in tuition savings for the class of 2011 is matched by the $300,000 in total scholarships received by its members. In his remarks, he also welcomed and thanked the WISD board of trustees and school staff.

“These are the people who believe in your children and in Global High School,” he said, thanking also the senior class sponsors, Jalynn Chapman and Pat Smith, assistant principal Ken Lynch, school counselor Jean Baskin and the students’ families.

“And last, but not least, I want to thank the class of 2011,” Snook said. “This first graduating class tonight sets the standard for years to come.”

Presenting the class, he said, “I believe you are prepared to face the challenges ahead.”

Class salutatorian Alexander Reisner expressed his and his classmates’ appreciation to the teachers who have been with Global High since its beginning as well as those now on staff. He also thanked parents, family members and “all who have brought us this far.”

“We have grown together as a Global High family,” he said. “We have been changed by Global High and Global High has been changed by us.”

Class valedictorian Nathaniel Dillinger spoke of how the world “is getting smaller, smaller and smaller” due to the continuing advances in communications.

“There’s a constant interaction between different cultures,” he said, saying his hope is that interaction will lead to equal treatment that benefits all.

“We must step up and create our path, one that will lead to equality,” he said, recalling the late John Lennon’s words: “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”

WISD school superintendent Tom Collins certified the class, saying, “Having fulfilled the requirements, I proudly – and with pleasure – certify the students behind me as graduates.”

As the students individually crossed the stage to receive a diploma in front of the clapping and cheering audience, deputy superintendent David Truitt announced each one’s name, parents’ names and future plans.

On behalf of their fellow graduates, the senior officers gave special recognition to Chapman, Smith and Baskin. Snook also was presented a special memento from the students before the class of 2011 exited the stage to their class song, Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”

Contact JoAnn at joann@wninews.com or 469-517-1452.