HOUSTON – Fort Bend Independent School District holds high school commencement ceremonies in busy downtown Houston close to the National Rifle Association convention and protests.
Seniors from five Fort Bend County High School walked across the stage with diplomas in hand at the Toyota Center. It was a bittersweet celebration for many like Clements High School senior Walker Caul.
“The joke among the students today is that today is going to be a historical day, down the street,” Caul said. “We’re all sad and to be leaving the school sphere right as what happened in Uvalde.”
Several blocks away from the Toyota Center, thousands of protesters and counter protesters expressed their rights for free speech regarding the NRA’s second amendment conference taking place at the George R. Brown Convention Center the same week as the deadly school shooting.
“One of my good friends, he actually didn’t come to the graduation ceremony because his family was worried about the NRA convention down the street,” Mikolas Quinones, a Clements High School graduate. “It was so sad not to see him there.”
Fort Bend County ISD issued a statement addressing security concerns. It reads in part “the area will be heavily populated with federal, state and local law enforcement officers which will add additional security measures for everyone in the section of downtown where the Toyota Center is located.”
Caul graduated with honors Friday and plans to attend the University of Hartford Connecticut, a short distance from Sandy Hook.
“It’s saddening and I hope that for his sake at least schools get safer,” Caul said while looking at his younger brother. “I really do. I hope that at some point there will be a sigh of relief. I think maybe in a college campus students are a little more driven and there’s more access to mental health resources.”
Six additional FBISD high schools will hold their commencement ceremonies Saturday at the venue. The NRA convention wraps up Sunday.