It was a morning of laughter and tears, a morning of closing the first chapter of life and preparing to write the second.

It was the morning that members of the Red Oak High School Class of 2007 crossed a stage, shook a few hands, pausing occasionally for an embrace, and received their reward for the successful completion of their high school careers.

Taking place this past Saturday at the Dallas Convention Center, ROHS students, friends and family were welcomed to the commence ment ceremony by Board of Trustees president John Hawkins.

Hawkins recognized the students and their achievements but also said that thanks were due to parents, grandparents and teachers who played an integral “role in making this happen.”

Students took an active part in the opening ceremonies, with Erica Muhammad leading the class and the audience in the invocation, senior class president Melody Haynes leading the Pledge of Allegiance and the senior choir ensemble performing the “National Anthem.”

The class’ top 10 students were recognized by ROHS principal Bobby Stults, who invited the 10 - namely Thomas Colt Moon, Tasha Mae Cannedy, Nuri Jurado Mahmood, Kristin Ann Petrichenko, Andrea Nicole Wilkerson, Sarah Kaitlyn Doty, Jeremiah William Goodreau, Lauren Cathryn Hadaway, Dyann Lynn Lopez and Nicholas Cole Ashford - to the stage to be recognized.

Students who competed at a statewide level were also recognized.

In her salutatory address, Dyann Lopez revealed that the last week of school was a milestone for her.

She told the audience that she celebrated her 18th birthday on Monday of that week, attending her last class at ROHS on Wednesday. Lopez, who will be attending Southwestern University in Georgetown, encouraged students to find their outlets in song.

She said, “there’s always that one song making seniors bawl their eyes out, or at least their parents.”

Quoting from the songs such Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” Lopez gave credit to her parents for helping her throughout her life, but specially recognized her grandmother.

Her grandmother, Lopez said, taught her many things, including “no matter what they take from me, they can’t take my dignity.”

Speaking directly to the graduates, Lopez emphasized that “after today, it’s all over… after commencement your - and I emphasize ‘your’ - life begins.”

Following Lopez’s address, representatives of the class of 2007 presented several teachers with individual gifts, culminating with the class gift of a plaque that will hang in the new high school once it is constructed.

Rising to deliver his valedictory address, Nick Ashford was described by Stults with two short words: “focus” and “discipline.” Like Lopez, Ashford will be attending Southwestern University in Georgetown.

“We have been blessed,” Ashford said, telling his classmates to be thankful for the enthusiasm and dedication of their teachers, principals and mentors.

Those people and the school have striven to provide students with “a solid and firm foundation that will springboard us into the future,” the he said.

Ashford exhorted his classmates, telling them that pride and passion are necessary fuel for success.

“This is a special day we should cherish,” he told his classmates.

Following Ashford’s speech, Stults rose to certify the graduation of the students before him, to assert that they had met all criteria to earn their diplomas.

However, he began instead by recognizing and honoring two students that would not be walking across the stage that day.

Stults honored the memory of the class’ two members who died before they could don their caps and gowns, telling the audience that though John Bowman and Caitlin Kuykendall “are not here, they did graduate.”

While the audience and class stood, Stults presented the two students’ diplomas to their parents; Caitlin’s to her father, John’s to his mother.

The two awards were the first of their class to be presented; all others followed.

With their walk completed, members of the senior choir ensemble sang “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” for the benediction, followed by “Alma Mater.”

Their tassels moved and their caps tossed, the class recessed to “March of the Priests,” passing through the corridors to meet their family and friends.

E-mail Anthony at