As is traditional at Waxahachie High School graduations, emotions ran the gamut – from parents and grandparents being overcome with emotion – to graduating seniors being overcome with nostalgia and all of them beaming over the prospect of getting on with life.

Graduation is an especially emotional time for Waxahachie natives Chrissie and Heath Taylor, whose daughter, Maddie, graduated four years ago and their youngest, Rance, is one of the 2011 WHS graduates.

“I can’t believe my baby boy is graduating – it seems like yesterday that I was leaving him at kindergarten with Mrs. Parker with him crying at the window as I walked away,” Chrissie said. “And now, I’ll be the one crying – he’s all grown up.”

The ceremony was stepped off with the posting of colors by the Eagle Scout members of the senior class – Justin Donelson, Stephen Erickson, Jacob Howarth, Kevin Madden and Samuel Van Zandt – followed by the national anthem, sung by the WHS senior choir ensemble.

By the time the seniors, clad in green caps and gowns, made their entrance at 7:30 p.m. to the tune of the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” the giant Potter’s House auditorium was literally packed with family, friends and other well-wishers of the 443 graduates.

Senior class vice-president, Krista Minton, extended a welcome to the crowd and conducted a moment of silence, especially recognizing 2007 WHS graduate Joel Ramirez, who died in Afghanistan two months ago.

After the Pledge of Allegiance led by Rebecca Bousquet, student council secretary, and recognition of other special guests by Audra Russell, student council treasurer, recognition of the graduates’ families was given by Whitney Ground, student council vice-president, with recognition of the faculty given by Kristi Clem, student council president.

Senior class secretary Jessica Walker announced this year’s inspirational staff members, Chano and Irma Ramirez, who are parents of Joel Ramirez. As the couple made their way to the front, the crowd rose to its feet and roared with cheers and applause.

“We just want to say thank you,” Chano said with a broken voice. “To the class of 2011, we love you and we will miss you.”

After recognition of honor students and students with perfect attendance, WHS senior Cole Miller, who accompanied himself on the keyboard, sang his original composition, “Friends,” with lyrics written by the Advanced Placement music theory class.

In her salutatory address, Kristi Clem, daughter of Dennis and Elaine Clem, reminisced over the years the class attended school together.

“We have been privileged, as a class, to have good friends and now we’ll have the privilege of going out and fulfilling our life’s passion,” she said. “We can’t forget where we came from and we must remember our families who have passed their legacy on to us. I know each of you will find your place and achieve your expectations.”

Valedictorian Ryan Popp, son of Gary and Lisa Popp, thanked several people, including his family, classmates and teachers, especially the band directors, for their influence on his life.

“Things change over the years – as we grow older, we get smarter (and) wiser the more experiences we share together,” he said, saying he wanted to encourage his class to make someone else smile by doing small things for people to bring them happiness. “During the next four years, how will you live your lives?

“In order to make the world a better place, remember that it’s not about the money, your grades, what you wear, but it’s all about people – about loving people.”

Senior class president Chase Colwell, admonished his classmates to not focus on the past.

“Look to the future so that when opportunities present themselves, you’ll be ready,” he said. “No matter what we’re doing now, it will determine what we’ll be in the future.”

Participants on stage included Waxahachie High School administration and board of trustees.

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.