“The difference between those who succeed and those who fail is the conscious decision that both of these groups of people make,” Chantelle Cancel, Ellison High School’s 2019 valedictorian, said.

A sea of Screaming Eagles tossed  their green caps into the air, signifying the triumph of one milestone onto the next.

Ellison High School’s class of 2019 graduated 550 seniors Sunday at the Bell County Expo Center.

“We are all blessed to live in greatest nation on earth, this is the land of opportunity, one where you can pursue your dreams and succeed because of your character and your hard work. I encourage each of you to never forget the lessons you’ve learned during this chapter of your life,” Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commanding general, III Corps and Fort Hood, said. “This is a fantastic time in your life and the best opportunities are yet to come.”

Thousands of Family members and friends filled the rows of seats in the center to watch their high school senior graduate.

All but two Ellison High School seniors where able to have a parent physically present during the graduation.

Sasha Llerena’s father, Master Sgt. Jose Llerena, is currently deployed to Afghanistan, and Natalie Pedraza’s mom, Staff Sgt. Maria Leonardo, is currently deployed to Kuwait. Both parents are currently stationed out of Fort Hood.

Fortunately, one of the two parents was video teleconferenced in during the graduation to watch their high school senior graduate.

Sasha said that it has been hard with her father gone, leaving her mom home alone, raising two children and herself. Sasha said her father should be home no later than November of this year.

Although Sasha’s father was not able to physically attend the graduation, she said that was grateful to her high school for coordinating the video teleconference.

“I feel overwhelmed, emotional,” Sasha said. “I started almost crying.”

As Sasha walked across the stage, here father was shown teleconferencing in on two mini TV screens in the background, watching his daughter graduate from over 7,800 miles away.

Sasha’s father held a hand-made sign up that read “I love you Sasha.”

Although Natalie Pedraza’s mom was unable to connect through video teleconference from Kuwait, she is scheduled to return home later this summer, just in time to help her daughter move into the dorms at the University of Texas-Austin.

Spring 2019 graduated thousands of local high school seniors – Copperas Cove High School graduated 470, Belton New Tech High School graduated 132, Belton High School graduated 665, KISD Early College High School graduated 166, Temple High School graduated 600, Harker Heights High School graduated 616, Shoemaker High School graduates 545, Killeen High School graduated 511 and Gatesville High School graduated 208.