SANTA FE, Texas (KTRK) -- It started like a typical high school graduation for Santa Fe's class of 2018, until the typical ceremony gave way to a heartbreaking tribute to the victims of the mass shooting.
Student leaders had the difficult job of balancing the grief their community is still feeling with the celebration they have for starting the next chapter of their lives.
"The events that transpired on May 18 have deeply effected many of us in this small community," valedictorian Corrigan Garcia said.
"So go make your life count for something worthy. Risk much," principal Rachel Blundell said.
Blundell also tried to help her students put into perspective the trauma they've all endured while also honoring the milestone they've reached.
"Run at such a pace that you show those who have fallen you're not just a high school graduate, you are a Santa Fe Indian," she said.
The victims killed were remembered at every turn. Some students were holding their pictures as they crossed the stage.
The graduates enter their next chapters different people than they were just days ago. But it's clear they continue on with support of their community and with a greater appreciation for how precious life really is.
"I urge you leave this stadium tonight and be brave. Be optimistic. Do this and each and everyone of us can make this world a better place," Garcia said.
Graduation signals time for healing and closure in Santa Fe