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Nederland High celebrates Class of 2020 graduates – “Cheers and I wish you all the best”

BEAUMONT — The Nederland High School graduation was one of the first to celebrate seniors with a commencement ceremony Friday at the Ford Park Arena in Beaumont.

A sea of black and yellow caps and gowns filled the inside and outside of the pavilion as the sunset and the Class of 2020 showed their Bulldog spirit one last time.

Parents, families and friends wait on the lawn at Ford Park.

Standing in the crowd were honor grads Anna Babin and Hayden Hefner, nervous yet eager, to jump into the next stages of their lives.

Babin, a cheerleader, yearbook and student council member, said she will miss the memories made at her alma mater.

“I’m going to miss seeing my friends who live in Nederland everyday, all of my teachers I’ve had and all the memories I’ve made through my extra-curricular activities,” she said. “My favorite memories come from cheer, winning football games, making pep rallies with my co-captains and celebrating our Bulldogs.”

Babin will attend Texas State University this fall.

A Nederland graduate wears as a mask as he prepares to walk across the stage.

Looking ahead to the stage, she eagerly waited for the next chapter of her life to begin.

“I can’t wait to make memories with my new friends and meet new people,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in store for me.”

For basketball star Hayden Hefner, he knows where his future lies, in Aggieland.

This fall, Hefner will be sporting a maroon and white basketball jersey.

“I’m looking forward to going out there this summer, meeting new people and really just doing what I love,” he shrugged. “I’m excited about the new adventure that I’m going to go on to and all the new people and learning I’m going to be doing over the next four years.”

Parents record graduates as they make the walk to their seats.

Hefner, while eager, said he will miss his friends, teachers and coaches as he leaves his hometown behind for College Station.

“We adjusted to a lot of obstacles this year, but it took everybody, not just the students, but also our families, to make it through,” he said. “The amount of work I’ve put in these last four years, really 12 from elementary and middle school to high school, I’m excited to see it all pay off.”

As Hefner’s words drifted off, the music began.

Families and friends clapped in pride and triumph as the seniors took their walk of honor.

Once sat, salutatorian Tanisha Jasani took the podium.

“When I first started thinking about my speech, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to talk about,” Jasani laughed. “All I knew was that the graduating Class of 2020 is special and I hope by the end of the night you all see that, too.’

Graduates prepare to walk to their seats.

Jasani referenced Tropical Storm Imelda, the TPC explosion, cars caught on fire in the parking lot and the adversities of the senior class.

“What is more important is that despite these causalities, we’re still here,” she said looking out. “Tonight, we might be practicing social distancing… but we’re still here. Not only did we survive these events but we came out as stronger people.”

Valedictorian Saahir Shamsuddin Dhanani shared similar thoughts.

“We did it,” Dhanani admonished, taking the stage. “We are finally about to graduate, congratulations to us all. I know our graduation isn’t quite conventional, but to be honest our four years in high school haven’t been so standard either.”

Looking to the bright side, Dhanani left his class with a final message — “There is always something to be grateful for.”

“In Harvey and Imelda, we learned how compassionate our community is. We came to each other’s aide despite how much we were struggling. Even in a global pandemic, which has affected our lives in one way or another, we have many things to be grateful for.”

To wrap up, Dhanani thanked friends, families and teachers who helped him along in his journey.

“I’ll end with one final thanks to the group of 2020, a group of aspiring, passionate human being who will go on to accomplish great thing,” he said. “Cheers and I wish you all the best.”

A camera man records the Nederland graduation ceremony.