By Janet Bresenham
Sunday marked much more than just graduation time for the 38 students in the Texico High School Class of 2003.
“It was really neat because we graduated from kindergarten together and later we graduated from eighth grade together and now we graduated from high school together,” said Texico High graduating senior Nicole Richards.
Texico High leads the way for a series of area high school graduation ceremonies this month, including Melrose, Floyd and Elida next Saturday and Grady and Dora on Sunday.
Richards, 17, who plans to attend nearby Lubbock Christian University and major in biology, said the size of the crowd at Sunday afternoon’s graduation ceremony surprised and thrilled the senior class.
“There were so many people,” she said. “It was very awesome to get to have graduation in the Texico Sports Arena this year.”
Her father, R.L. Richards, superintendent of Texico Municipal School District, said there were about about 1,000 friends and relatives on hand to support the graduates.
Even for him, this year’s ceremony proved a bit wistful for more reasons than just his daughter’s graduation.
Now in his 13th year as Texico school superintendent, R.L. Richards has followed this graduating class throughout their education from kindergarten to 12th grade.
“It’s really emotional for me,” he said. “I’ve seen these kids grow up. Most have wonderful plans after high school, but it’s still hard to watch them graduate and see them leave Texico.”
The strong academic leanings of many of this year’s seniors prompted Texico High School to begin offering Advanced Placement (AP) level courses in English, biology, chemistry and math.
Students who take those classes can earn college credits while still in high school, so some Texico High graduates leave with up to 12 college credit hours already on their transcripts.
Nicole Richards said she is one of the students who got a jumpstart on college by taking the AP chemistry class.
The majority of the seniors who graduated from Texico High are college bound, her father said.
“Quite a few are staying in New Mexico because of the way the Lottery Scholarships are working out,” R.L. Richards said. “They keep the money and the students in New Mexico, which I’m just tickled to death about.”
Other students will go to nearby Texas colleges and universities, while one student plans to attend culinary school in Colorado and another is bound for Oral Roberts University.
Texico’s graduation Sunday came a full week to two weeks before any of the other area high schools, thanks to a scheduling change this year, the superintendent said.
“We adjusted our school calendar, so we’re going longer every day,” R.L. Richards said. “The students go to school 30 minutes more a day, and that buys a lot of extra time over 180 days.”
Texico High senior Cherry Mayfield delivered the valedictorian’s speech, while Melissa Gilbreth presented the salutatorian’s speech.
Gilbreth and senior Carrie Rucker also sang solos for graduation.