Island University Opens Doors to Host Rockport-Fulton High School Graduation

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – High school is an influential time in a young person’s life – a time where new friendships are forged, memories are made, and life lessons are learned. For the Rockport-Fulton High School (RFHS) graduating class of 2018, those lessons included persevering through hardships, leaning on others in time of need and realizing that life can be as unpredictable as the weather.

Hurricane Harvey slammed into Rockport on August 25, 2017, causing massive destruction to the coastal town, including the area high school. Rockport-Fulton students were not only displaced from their homes, but also their classrooms. Hundreds of students were scattered to neighboring school districts to continue their education and to make sure the seniors would stay on track to graduate on time. The high school students were eventually welcomed back to their campus after more than two months, though many buildings, including the auditorium where graduation is traditionally held, remain under construction.

Because of the ongoing construction, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi was proud to be a “home away from home” for the commencement ceremony for more than 200 Rockport-Fulton graduates. The festivities, held in the Dugan Gym on June 1, transformed the Islanders “blue and green” into a sea of “green and gold,” the colors of the Rockport-Fulton Pirates.

RFHS Salutatorian Drew Scott, who plans to attend Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in the fall, shared words of wisdom at the ceremony.

“This year, the class of 2018 learned the importance of community,” said Scott. “At first glance, it appeared we were watching a storm rip apart our small town, when in fact, it brought us all together.”

The ceremony and its location were bittersweet for students and their loved ones. On one hand, excitement filled the air surrounding this major milestone, while on the other hand, the change of venue reminded those from Rockport-Fulton that their town still has a long way to go towards full recovery.

“We stand here today not in our normal home, not in the place where we witnessed family members and friends graduate… but home is where the heart is,” said Luke Michael, RFHS senior class president. “We’ve been put through the wringer and our world was completely torn apart. But it’s what you do when everything around you is falling apart that decides how successful you will be.”

Helen Hartman, RFHS valedictorian, shared similar sentiments.

“I, like a lot of you are sad that we aren’t graduating in our stadium in Rockport,” said Hartman. “But I think we’ve been displaced so many times that we are fairly used to it by now, and it’s not really about where we are, but the people we are with.”

Tony Graham, RFHS assistant principal, expressed pride for his students’ resilient spirit.

“These kids are amazing,” said Graham. “Some of them are still not living in their homes, and they’re traveling multiple miles to Rockport every day to come to school. To see them continuing to focus on their education is motivating, inspiring and courageous.”

Multiple departments at A&M-Corpus Christi, including Recreational Sports, Admissions, the University Police Department, Marketing and Communications and Community Outreach, along with La Palmera and American Bank, worked closely together to donate facilities and services to make the ceremony a positive memory for these students who endured much hardship and disruption in the past year.

“It’s through the devastation that we find realization,” said Michael. “We realize the storm we’re going through isn’t the end, it is the beginning of our future success. By overcoming adversity, we find the people we can count on and trust, and in this process of pain and suffering, that we find out who we really are.”

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi congratulates the Rockport-Fulton High School graduating class of 2018! You did it!