Hats off to you, grads: LISD class of 2017 graduates with distinction

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As the class of 2017 walked onto the floor to the rousing melody of "Pomp and Circumstance" by their school band, their long graduation gowns flowed like ribbons over the bare floor of the HEB Center in Cedar Park, Saturday, June 3.

In the nearly packed arena stands, families and friends looked glowingly upon the sea of graduation caps as they filed out to their seats. Many whooped and hollered upon seeing their grads, and a few parents' eyes in the arena were noticeably misty.

Per tradition at graduation, Cedar Park High School's Salutatorian Preethi Keerthipati, who graduated with a 5.62 GPA was their ceremony's first featured speaker. She spoke to how appreciative she was to her guidance from her teachers.

"I want to say thank you to our teachers for putting up with our immaturity and helping us become better people," Keerthipati said. "I want to give a shout out to all the moms and dads here. I know high schoolers can be terrible at times, and I can say that, because I was one. Class of 2017, I encourage you to go out into the world, have fun, make mistakes and learn from them. Do great things, and most importantly to sometimes just sit down and be humble."

The scene at Cedar Park High School's graduation was emblematic of LISD. District-wide, the Class of 2017 is an accomplished group. 

There were 23 students who were recognized as semifinalists in the 2017 National Merit Program based on their preliminary SAT and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Less than 1 percent of high school students achieve the distinction.

Seven graduates scored a perfect 36 on their ACT exams. Less than one-tenth of one percent of students in the United States achieve this.

Throughout the past four years, there have been 1,604 AP exams taken at Cedar Park alone.

There were $13 million in scholarships awarded to students in LISD in 2017, said Cedar Park Principal John Sloan. Graduates will be going to college in 27 different states.

Valedictorian Lauren Winograd, who graduated with a 5.63 GPA, addressed her fellow 486 graduates following Keerthipati at the Cedar Park High School ceremony.

"Remember no one is paying as close attention to your mistakes as you are," Winograd said. "To everyone else, it's just a speck on the wall. So keep pushing and don't live your life so cautiously that you never get the chance to fail. Don't be afraid of what's to come. Step out of your comfort zone and do something that has meaning to you. Do something you care about and realize your potential in something new."

Once the names of graduates began to be announced, each student's name was announced with clarity. Small roars of cheers of varying style from applause to "AAAH-OOOOHs" from the student's family and friends quickly followed.

A few rambunctious students took to flashing hand signals in their photos, and one even rolled across on Heely roller shoes.

For the final comments on the ceremony, Sloan addressed his graduates with words of praise and encouragement.

"What I admire most about you, seniors, cannot be measured in test scores or championships," Sloan said. "What I admire most is your character, work ethic, kindness and compassion, the way you respond to others in need, you inclusiveness and your initiative to make your school, community and the world a better place. I'm confident our future in good hands with you." 

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