BOGATA—Rivercrest ISD 2020 seniors celebrated their graduation at a touchless ceremony, and they remembered their missing classmate as well.

“There is one empty chair that we really wish was not empty. I would like to recognize that student at this time and add his name to the roll, Rivercrest High School Class of 2020, Brandon Luke Early,” Superintendent Stanley Jessee said. “You are missed, and you’ll always be in our hearts. You are here with us now as we celebrate the accomplishments of your class.”

Early, along with fellow Rivercrest student Kolby “Tut” Fletcher, died when they collided with each other in their vehicles Feb. 15, 2019, on Highway 37 North. Early was also remembered during the scholarship recognition portion of the ceremony, where three of his classmates received a scholarship in his name.

As the Class of 2020 names were called by Principal Ronny Alsup, each student walked up from their chair, turned around and stood in front of the podium to face their peers and went back to their seats to the sound of applause and cheers.

The class received at total of over $275,000 in scholarships to further their education.

Salutatorian Kolby Townes said his class won a contest against previous senior classes.

“Senior skip day, there’s no challenge, we win,” Townes said. “Seriously though, all in all, we have traveled this uncharted territory well. We’ve experienced a pandemic that has changed what normal is or will be. We have met challenges we never dreamed of. Let us learn from this.

“… One final thought. High school is a lot like toilet paper, we’re going to miss it when it’s gone.”

Valedictorian Bailey Smith sent her fellow classmates off with words she’s heard before every One Act Play, “Now, Class of 2020 ‘Go out there and tell your story.’”

Kim Cox is the city editor for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6965 or at

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