Class of 2023 graduates from Marfa High School 

Diego Estrada, member of the Marfa High School class of 2023, gifts his relative Deborah Garcia Falknor with a red rose at a graduation ceremony in the Shorthorn Gym last Friday. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

MARFA — Marfa High School’s graduating class was honored Friday evening with a ceremony held in the Shorthorn Gym in which friends, family and district staff bid farewell to the Class of 2023. 

Nineteen reflective graduates in purple caps and gowns sat in fold-up chairs on the court along with school board members and administrators as spectators crowded the stands. Outgoing Superintendent Oscar Aguero, who has accepted a new position of superintendent of Schleicher County ISD in Eldorado, Texas, got one last wear out of his purple suit jacket. Longtime MISD teacher and Coach Arturo Alferez, who was selected by the board to serve as interim superintendent, will now take over as head of the district. 

Single-stem roses were given out by Marfa High School seniors as tokens of gratitude for those who have made an impact on their lives at the 2023 commencement ceremony. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

Friday evening’s graduation ceremony began with the customary recognition of students’ loved ones, who were visited by the grad-capped seniors in the stands as they bestowed appreciative hugs and single-stemmed roses — setting a bittersweet tone to the event. 

Ummi Chanez passes out roses as parent Annabel Peña snaps photos at last week’s graduation ceremony. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

Next up was a heartfelt speech by Salutatorian Ummi Chanez, who laughed and cried as she addressed her mother, teachers and fellow classmates. Chanez will go on to attend Texas Christian University and bedazzled her graduation cap with the school’s logo.

Chanez described the Class of 2023’s shared experience of “last times” this year — last homecoming dance, last day as a Marfa High School student — and encouraged her fellow graduates to show bravery in both pivotal and everyday moments. 

“Although it’s a sad feeling to know that you won’t be back here next year, I’m excited to see what the future has in store for each one of you,” said Chanez. “We’ll be starting our careers and stepping into the real world by ourselves, and although it’s scary, remember to have courage, and don’t be scared to kill a spider.” 

Ummi Chanez delivers her Salutatorian speech. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

Chanez thanked Coach Edgar Ramirez profusely for his role in her accomplishment of medaling at the state UIL cross-country competition this year, which she said was one of the highlights of her high school career. 

“I would also like to thank my coaches for pushing me to be the very best version of myself and for teaching me my skills such as respect, responsibility, punctuality, discipline and reliability,” said Chanez. 

The salutatorian snapped one last photo with her cohort, posing for a selfie at the podium, and was met with applause after delivering her final words: “Ummi Chanez signing out. Class of 2023: We did it.” 

Marfa High School graduates Aubrie Aguilar and Juan Bautista share a laugh at last week’s graduation ceremony, where Bautista, in honor of his participation in the school’s cheerleading program, performed the splits upon receiving his diploma. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

After brief remarks from Valedictorian Dimetrey Stewart, commencement speaker Raquel Jenkins was introduced. An educator of 23 years, Jenkins taught the graduating class as third graders many years ago and is currently living in Caldwell, Texas. Jenkins offered some age-old wisdom to the emerging adults — remain flexible, don’t just chase money, and stay true to yourself. 

“Focus on your family and your friends and your well being — just try to find a balance,” said Jenkins. “Look at life as an opportunity to discover new skills and talents and as a way to make a difference in this world.” 

“Your family and teachers have spent years preparing you for your next journey,” she added. “You have what it takes.”

Maribel Meraz displays her newly-received Marfa High School diploma at last week’s graduation ceremony. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

With that, High School Principal Luane Porter certified the graduates, and each received their diploma and a moment of recognition from the gathered community members. Graduation cap tassels were ceremoniously moved, the alma mater was sung, and a parting prayer was said. 

Senior Janelly Pereira dons a custom graduation cap featuring the iconic Looney Toons cartoon’s closing sequence. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

Before loved ones rushed the court in a frenzy of tears, flowers and iPhone snapshots, seniors gathered in a circle in the middle of the gym floor, arms draped around one another, to sway to “Something Only Pictures Know,” a melancholy country tune by Averie Bielski, signaling their last hoorah.

“You’re going to miss this. The right now, hometown living, when we were just kids in a cap and gown,” sings Bielski in the song. “We told each other we didn’t think we’d make it this far, praying and wishing to run it back around. Now we’re highway bound.” 

The Marfa High School class of 2023 collectively launches their caps into the air, signaling new beginnings. Photo by Mary Cantrell.