UVALDE, Texas — Exactly one month after a gunman stormed into a Uvalde elementary school killing 19 students and two teachers, Uvalde High School seniors are set to walk the stage and graduate.
The graduation, which was originally scheduled for May 27, was put on hold following the tragic loss of life at Robb Elementary School on May 24.
Many of Friday's graduates were directly impacted by the tragedy last month. Senior Kadence Kubish's little sister, Makenna, was one of the 19 lives lost that day.
“She lost her little sister at Robb Elementary, so it’s been hard," said Kadence's mother, Brandie Jupe. "But today is a day that needs to be celebrated.”
Kadence's graduation cap was decorated to honor her sister.
"We are on a path to healing, she has her good days and bad days," Brandie said. "These kids need to be celebrated. They’ve worked hard to get to where they’re at. They deserved a clap on the back. They deserve to be honored in that way."
Nancy Bennet's grandson is among those who graduated.
"We’ve waited a long time for tonight and so we’ve been through so much. It’s an emotional evening for us," she said. "We’re so proud of these kids. This is the best group of kids."
Remembering the victims
Eva Mireles was one of the first victims identified in the Uvalde school shooting. She was a fourth-grade teacher.
She has been described as a loving mother and wife who lived life to the fullest.
“She was adventurous. I would definitely say those wonderful things about her. She is definitely going to be very missed,” said 44-year-old relative Amber Ybarra, of San Antonio.
In a post on the school’s website at the start of the school year, Mireles had introduced herself to her new students.
“Welcome to the 4th grade! We have a wonderful year ahead of us!” she wrote, noting she had been teaching 17 years, loved running and hiking, and had a “supportive, fun, and loving family.” She mentioned that her husband was a school district police officer, and they had a grown daughter and three “furry friends.”
Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez
Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10, was a third-grader at Robb Elementary.
Her family said she was in the same classroom as her cousin, who was also shot and killed.
Xavier James Lopez
The Associated Press spoke with Lisa Garza, 54, of Arlington, Texas, who identified her cousin, Xavier Javier Lopez, 10, as one of the victims.
She said Xavier had been eagerly awaiting a summer of swimming.
“He was just a loving 10-year-old little boy, just enjoying life, not knowing that this tragedy was going to happen today,” she said. “He was very bubbly, loved to dance with his brothers, his mom. This has just taken a toll on all of us.”
Vincent Salazar said his 10-year-old daughter, Layla, loved to swim and dance to Tik Tok videos. She was fast — she won six races at the school’s field day, and Salazar proudly posted a photo of Layla showing off two of her ribbons on Facebook.
Each morning as he drove her to school in his pickup, Salazar would play “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘n’ Roses and they’d sing along, he said.
“She was just a whole lot of fun,” he said.
Manny Renfro told the Associated Press that his grandson, 8-year-old Uziyah Garcia, was among those killed.
“The sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known,” Renfro said. “I’m not just saying that because he was my grandkid.”
Renfro said Uziyah last visited him in San Angelo during spring break.
“We started throwing the football together and I was teaching him pass patterns. Such a fast little boy and he could catch a ball so good,” Renfro said. “There were certain plays that I would call that he would remember and he would do it exactly like we practiced.”
Rogelio Torres was killed during the shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Rogelio was 10 years old.
Among those left to grieve were relatives of 10-year-old Eliahna Garcia.
“She was very happy and very outgoing,” said Eliahna’s aunt, Siria Arizmendi, a fifth-grade teacher at Flores Elementary School in the same school district as Robb Elementary. “She loved to dance and play sports. She was big into family, enjoyed being with the family.”
Nevaeh Alyssa Bravo also was killed and her aunt noted Naveah’s first name is Heaven spelled backward. In a Facebook posting, Yvonne White described Nevaeh and Jailah, her cousin who was also killed in the massacre, as “Our Angels.”
Eliahana Cruz Torres
Fourth-grader Eliahana Cruz Torres was looking forward to her last softball game of the season before she was killed at Robb Elementary School.
"She was very excited about her softball game today. She was kind of nervous," her aunt said. "I talked to her last night and she was kind of nervous, saying that it was her last game and she didn't want softball to end. And she was excited because there were gonna, I guess, announce the ones that made it to all-stars. And she was also saying, like, 'what if I make it? I'm gonna be so nervous.' And I was like, 'girl you got this. You're gonna be good at it. You got this.' So she was excited."
Jailah Nicole Silguero
Veronica Luevanos, whose 10-year-old daughter, Jailah Nicole Silguero, was among the victims, tearfully told Univision that her daughter did not want to go to school the day of the shooting and seemed to sense something bad was going to happen. Jailah’s cousin, Naveah, also died in the shooting.
Jose Manuel Flores Jr.
Jose's parents told CNN that the 10-year-old was helpful around the house and loved his younger siblings. “He was just very good with babies,” his mother said. His father told CNN that Jose loved baseball and video games and “was always full of energy.” A photo taken at school the day of the shooting shows him smiling and proudly holding a certificate to show he made the honor roll.
Amerie Jo Garza
Medical assistant Angel Garza also hurried to the school and immediately found a girl covered in blood among the terrified children streaming out of the building.
“I’m not hurt. He shot my best friend,” the girl told Garza when he offered help. “She’s not breathing. She was just trying to call the cops.”
Her friend was Amerie Jo Garza — Angel Garza’s stepdaughter.
Amerie was a happy child who made the honor roll and loved to paint, draw and work in clay. “She was very creative,” said her grandmother Dora Mendoza. “She was my baby. Whenever she saw flowers she would draw them.”
The mother of a close friend described Maranda as “very loving and very talkative.” She told the Austin American-Statesman that her daughter and Miranda had been in the same classes and that Maranda would ask to have her hair done like her daughter’s.
Ryan Ramirez rushed to Robb Elementary when he heard about the shooting, hoping to find his daughter, Alithia, and take her home. But Alithia, too, was among the victims.
Ramirez’s Facebook page includes a photo, now shown around the world, of the little girl wearing the multi-colored T-shirt that announced she was out of “single digits” after turning 10 years old. The same photo was posted again Wednesday with no words, but with Alithia wearing angel wings.
Irma Garcia was also killed in the shooting. She taught at the school for 23 years.
According to reports, she died while shielding her students from the shooter.
Javier Cazares said his 9-year-old daughter Jacklyn Cazares was killed in her classroom. She was with a group of five girls, including her second cousin, Annabelle Rodriguez, who formed a tight group of friends.
“They are all gone now,” Cazares said.
The extended families of the slain cousins gathered to mourn and comfort each other over barbecue.
Cazares described his daughter as a “firecracker” who “had a voice, she didn’t like bullies, she didn’t like kids being picked on.”
“All in all, full of love. She had a big heart,” he said.
Jayce Carmelo Luevanos
Carmelo Quiroz's grandson, Jayce Luevanos, 10, had begged to go along with his grandmother on the day of the shooting as she accompanied her great-granddaughter’s kindergarten class to the San Antonio Zoo. But, he said, the family told Jayce it didn’t make sense to skip school so close to the end of the year. Besides, Jayce liked school.
“That’s why my wife is hurting so much, because he wanted to go to San Antonio,” Quiroz told USA Today. “He was so sad he couldn’t go. Maybe if he would have gone, he’d be here.”
Makenna Lee Elrod
Makenna's aunt started a GoFundMe page to help the family.
"Words cannot express the pain my sister and our family is going through. I know in the coming weeks my sister is going to be overcome with so much and any support is appreciated. Please pray for our family and remember Makenna. She was beautiful, funny, smart, and amazing. She had the biggest heart and loved her family and friends so much. Her smile would light up a room."
Tess Marie Mata
Faith Mata told The Washington Post that her sister loved TikTok dance videos, Ariana Grande, the Houston Astros, and having her hair curled.
Alexandria Aniyah Rubio
Uvalde County Sheriff’s Deputy Felix Rubio and his wife had been at the school the morning of the shooting to celebrate with their daughter, 10-year-old Alexandria “Lexi” Aniyah, since the fourth-grader had made honor roll with all A's and received a good citizen award.
In a Facebook post, Kimberly Rubio wrote, “We told her we loved her and would pick her up after school. We had no idea this was goodbye.”
After a rough time with Zoom classes during the pandemic, Maite Rodriguez made the honor roll for straight As and Bs this year and was recognized at an assembly on the day of the shooting, said her mother, Ana Rodriguez. Maite especially liked physical education, and after she died, her teacher texted Ana Rodriguez to say she was highly competitive at kickball and ran faster than all the boys. Her mother described Maite as “focused, competitive, smart, bright, beautiful, happy.” Maite wanted to be a marine biologist and after researching a program at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi she told her mother she wanted to study there.
Maite's family member created a GoFundMe page, saying:
"It is with a heavy heart I come on here on behalf of my cousin Ana who lost her sweet baby girl in yesterday's senseless shooting we are deeply saddened by the loss of this sweet smart little girl. Donations for funeral expenses as well for time away from work to allow her to grieve her loss anything helps God bless and may she R.I.P Maite Rodriguez we love you."