MARICOPA — It was a moment to shine for the 460 graduating seniors at the Maricopa High School graduation on Thursday night. Families and friends gathered to see the seniors walk across the stage with their diplomas, celebrating their futures ahead.

Whether that future may entail going into the workforce, military or continuing education, speakers including the superintendent and the valedictorian applauded the graduates’ first milestones and an opening door for the real world.

“Tonight our city pauses,” Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said. “To honor the accomplishment, perseverance and incredible spirit of the young men and women seated before us.”

The group of seniors celebrated their success in receiving more than $8 million in academic, athletic and military scholarships.

Alex Jackson, the senior class president, spoke proudly on stage saying they were the most successful and driven class Maricopa has yet to see.

Chandler Chang, the valedictorian, brought laughter to the audience as he explained the close-call deadline he faced in writing the speech. He also explained the importance of not being hung up on the grades to measure success in all aspects of life.

“Your high school transcript tells only 10 percent of your story, if that,” Chang said. “It doesn’t mention the volunteer hours, working two jobs or that you’re a kind-hearted person. Those things define who you are, not by a test score and not by a column of letters on a page.”

He finished the speech by emphasizing that your grades are not your labels, a perspective that he explained the teachers of Maricopa High School encouraged students to believe.

The ceremony brought not only parents but siblings and cousins in support of the special occasion.

Shawn Kerley watched his younger brother in the spotlight as he grabbed the diploma and walked across the stage.

“I hope he continues to stride forward and do the best he can out there,” Kerley said. “Take everything he’s learned and use it in his future endeavors.”

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