"This class has persevered and achieved great things despite the challenges they have faced.”
After four years of high school, two-and-a-half affected by COVID, and the strains of a long academic career, a little heat wasn’t going to stop 114 Wright City High School graduates from enjoying their graduation ceremony on June 2.
But that doesn’t mean they were necessarily happy about sitting in a cap and gown while it was so hot.
“Especially with these things zipped up, we’re gonna die,” said April Leonard, a senior who just happened to also be giving a speech during the ceremony.
A little humor on an otherwise emotional day for the class of 2023.
“We walked into school and we’re like ‘this isn’t real life right now,’ senior Jordyn Dunakey said.
“Like actually coming in here and be like ‘oh, this is like our last time being here,’ Leonard added.
“The last time being with everybody,” senior Mackinzie Brittain said.
Leonard, Dunakey, and Brittain were among the entire class gathered in the gymnasium for the class picture prior to the start of the ceremony.
Outside, both the school parking lot and football bleachers filled up as proud parents and family members grabbed a seat to celebrate their graduate.
And at 7:30 p.m., lead by the school board and their teachers, the seniors processed in, one-by-one, as they walked to their assigned chair.
“Awesome. Awesome,” said Wright City R-II School District Superintendent Dr. Chris Berger after everyone was seated. He lauded those who made the evening happen.
“While I will never be able to call myself a Wright City alum, I’m proud to say that my daughter is, or at least after tonight. I am proud of her. I am super proud to be the superintendent of this senior class representing our community. And I’m super proud of all you. Good luck and have fun tonight,” he said.
Principal Matt Brooks was also ready to celebrate the senior class.
“This class began their high school careers with a less-than-traditional experience, having two-and-a-half year affected by the pandemic. This class has persevered and achieved great things despite the challenges they have faced,” he told the assembled crowd.
A smattering of honors were handed out to the students who had been named student or Wildcat of the month throughout the year, and cum laude, suma cum laude, and magna cum laude recipients were recognized.
Students also heard from four of their classmates, each of whom passed on some profound wisdom to their friends.
“Put everything you got into everything you do,” student speaker David Riggs IV said. “That is my message for all of you today.”
“Lean on each other for support and never forget the friendships and connections you have made here,” student speaker Jacob Ritter said. “Congratulations once again and best of luck in all your future endeavors.”
“We proved to ourselves and to others who watch from afar, we are more capable than what we think and stronger than what we could have imagined,” Leonard said in her speech.
“When you wake up tomorrow and start the rest of your life, be you,” senior class president Victoria Orf said. “Class of ‘23, be remarkable.”
The students then heard from Jacob Wallace, the teacher they had chosen to give the faculty keynote address.
“As you all go your separate ways to pursue your own passions and interests, I ask one thing of you. Don’t stop,” he said. “I cannot wait to see what incredible things this group will go on to do in their future.”
As the applause died down, the presentation of diplomas began. One by one, the name of each student was read. They crossed the stage, got their diploma cover, a handshake and photo with Board of Education President Austin Jones, another handshake from Berger, and then it was down the stage and into their future.
Actually, it was over to Brooks and then to have another photo taken before returning to their seat.
Finally, when the last student’s name was called – Isaiah Jordan Yoder – and everyone was back in their assigned chair the newly-graduated alumni got to do their “favorite” thing.
“This did not go well in practice,” Brooks jokingly told the crowd. “I ask that they rise to sing the school song one last time.”
That was preceded by a chorus of groans, but everyone got through it with at least a little bit of enthusiasm. “Not bad, not bad!” Brooks said after the song had ended.
Brooks then called Orf forward one last time and then instructed the class of 2023 for the last time. “Tassels right to left,” he said as the newest Wright City alumni completed the symbolic action showing the crossing over from high school to the next stage of their lives.
And finally, Brooks made the announcement everyone was waiting for.
“Having met all the graduation requirements set forth by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Wright City High School, I now present to you the class of 2023,” he said.
A loud cheer went up – and so did a hundred caps as the newly-graduated seniors tossed them sky high in celebration.
After the ceremony, Brooks reflected on the night.
“They’ve been a lot of fun,” he said. “They just kept doing what they needed to do to be successful.”
“I just wish ‘em the best of luck and hopefully they come back and see us.”
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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