Yesterday was the day that the Class of 2016 waited 13 years for. At 2:00 p.m., people packed the school gymnasium to watch the Paris High School Class of 2016 walk across the stage and receive their diplomas.
The afternoon commencement was opened by the classic “Pomp and Circumstance” performed by Paris’ concert band and directed by Music Teacher Jared Shulse. Thirty-one students strolled in with equal mix of excitement and nervousness.
Superintendent Aaron Vitt welcomed the family, friends, and Paris community to the graduation and asked that they stand for “The Star Spangled Banner” sang by the choir. The crowd reflected on the students accomplishments as the choir and band performed pieces entitled “What Tomorrow Brings” and “Joy.”
School Counselor Lisa Youse recognized the graduates who qualified for the A+ program scholarship. According to the Missouri Department of Higher Education, students who complete this program receive two free years of education at a participating public community college or vocational/technical school. Requirements for this program included having a 95% attendance record, performing 50 unpaid hours of tutoring or mentorship, and more. Students who qualified included:
- Dakota Anderson*^
- Trenton Barnes*
- Hannah Bartels*^
- Rachel Blades*^
- Katelyn Breid
- Heaven Day
- Micael Ensor
- Laine Forrest*^
- Tucker Gruber*
- Briar Hancock *
- Chelsea Holmes
- Jazzmine Jamoner
- Jon Turner*^
- Abbie Wheelan*^
The asterisk (*) denotes members of the National Honor Society and the caret (^) indicates students who received an academic letter. Logan Pease and Sabrina Wright also received recognition of their membership in the National Technical Honor Society.
Abbie Wheelan was named Salutatorian of the Paris High School Class of 2016. Wheelan spoke of taking action in life and overcoming barriers.
“Bradley Whiftord once said, ‘Take action. Every story you’ve ever connected with, every leader you’ve ever admired, every puny little thing you’ve ever accomplished is the result of taking action. You have a choice. You can either be a passive victim of circumstance or you can be the active hero of your own life’….No matter what may come your way, I ask that you take action and keep that end goal in mind and continue to be that hero in your own life. Thank you, Class of 2016, for helping me to become my own hero.”
Wheelan received a $700 scholarship from the Barnett family for her accomplishments and will use it toward her future at Quincy University.
Valedictorian for the Class of 2016 is Jon Turner. Turner, who will be attending Missouri Southern State University in the fall, will receive $1,000 from the Barnett Scholarship Fund.
In his speech, he thanked his parents for making sure he got to school on time and his teachers for instilling the skills he, and everyone else, needed to be successful.
“Now we take the first step into our future,” said Turner. “I believe that greatness lies in every single one of us.”
Flowers were then given to family and friends by the graduates and Principal Chris Willingham wrapped up the commencement by quoting the legendary Dr. Seuss:
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go. So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.
“Life can be hard and life can get you down, but I can tell you that you have the tools to be successful no matter what challenges you face,” said Willingham. “Always persevere. Try hard. Know that you can lean on your friends. And remember, its not failure unless you don’t learn from your mistakes and repeat those mistakes over and over again.”
Commencement ended with tears being shed, hats being thrown, and some very happy (former) students. Graduate Kimber Berrey took to Instagram to commemorate her high school experience:
So yesterday I graduated from Paris High School. I can’t believe those days are over, but I’m looking forward to starting my future in Columbia with the best group of friends I could ever ask for. The biggest thing I look forward to is seeing where the whole PHS class of 2016 ends up. Graduating with this great group of people has been the best. I know we will all be successful in everything we do. Good luck guys✌️????????
I think she said it well. Congrats Class of 2016, you did it!