HIDALGO — There was a common theme at commencement ceremonies held for the thousands of Hidalgo County high school seniors who marked the end of their final year last week and this week: resilience.

Mission ISD Commencement Day ceremonies at Payne Arena in Hidalgo on Monday, June, 07,2021. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | dlopez@themonitor.con)

McAllen ISD Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez said his district had asked more of the class of 2021 than any other class — they’d proven just how tough they were, he said.

Rolando “Rudy” Trevino, chief of academics at PSJA ISD, remarked on the losses his students have endured, especially over the past year, and on how deserving they were of a celebration because of it.

Edinburg graduate Seryna Sydney Ayala, who ranked second in Robert Vela High School’s class of 2021, said the road to graduation was much bumpier than expected.

The class of 2021 endured and conquered almost an entire year of remote learning during a global pandemic, an accomplishment they were repeatedly told deserved recognition and commendation.

“You showed grit the entire year, and that is why you are here,” Mission Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Carol Perez said during one of her district’s graduations Monday.

That grit paid off for many of Mission CISD’s 1,042 graduates. They graduated in three separate commencement ceremonies Monday, a final high school milestone for students who will go off to study at places like South Texas College and Arlington Baptist University and Baylor University despite the challenges of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of Monday’s graduates was Lisa Monique Garza, Mission High School’s 2021 valedictorian.

Garza acknowledged the difficulties that her class withstood — not just the regular trials and tribulations of high school, but the hardships of a global crisis.

“Even though we started from the bottom, it looks like the whole team is here,” she said with a grin before receiving applause from the audience.

Martha Ceja during Mission ISD Commencement ceremonies at Payne Arena in Hidalgo on Monday, June, 07,2021. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | dlopez@themonitor.con)

Mission High School valedictorian Lisa Monique Garza asked her classmates to live the rest of their lives with humility and always give back to their community.

“Build your legacy not on how much money you earn but on the lives you impact and the amount of hearts you touch,” she said.

Garza plans to attend the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley where she will be pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice, and hopes to continue her work and advocate for children as part of the FBI’s Crimes Against Children division.

To demonstrate the endless possibilities that the class of 2021 is capable of, superintendent Perez referenced the book, “The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss. She provided a copy of the book to every student to encourage them to make their mark on the world.

Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Terrell Owens, who made a recorded cameo appearance, also had possibilities on his mind. He congratulated the graduates of Mission CISD and shared some encouraging words for their future.

“I want you all to make Mission proud,” he said. “Stay true to your values, your morals and trust me, the best is yet to come.”

Veterans Memorial valedictorian, Adrian Michael Gallardo, said that while his senior year was not ideal, he is “confident that better times are coming.”

Monitor staff writer Matt Wilson contributed to this report.