Smith-Cotton High School hosted a celebration of beginnings Saturday night at the Mathewson Exhibition Center on the Missouri State Fairgrounds during commencement exercises for the 350 graduates of the Class of 2019.

As Student Council President Alex Bread noted in his remarks, nowhere in the program did it say graduation; instead the word commencement was used. He added Webster’s Dictionary defines commencement as a beginning or a start.

“Instead of calling this the end of high school, we’re calling it a beginning,” Beard said.

Senior Class President Reagan Beard agreed, adding, “Sure, today is a celebration of the past years of hard work it has taken to earn a seat here tonight but it’s so much more.

“Today is a celebration of the future, the beginning of the rest of our lives,” she added. “We have been preparing for this day for 13 years, and whether we are headed off to college or a trade school, joining the military, or going straight into the workforce, we are about to experience great changes in our lives.”

According to Sedalia School District 200 Superintendent Steve Triplett, the graduates are well prepared for whatever path they choose.

Triplett began his remarks by saying he was “in awe of the hard work and dedication each of the graduates had exhibited throughout their four years in high school.”

“It is our responsibility as a school district to ensure that our graduates are career and college ready and we take that responsibility very seriously,” Triplett said. “Because I know our expectations are demanding, and yet you have made the challenge, I am confident that each one of you will have what it takes to compete with your peers in future classrooms and in your careers.”

Triplett went on the add members of the class have competed at the highest levels in both local, state, national and international contests. Collectively the graduates earned more than $3.5 million in scholarships.

Indeed, there were many firsts for the class who four years ago became the first group of freshmen to make their mark at the high school, according to Principal Wade Norton.

Norton commented that while there were many in the room who were proud of the graduates he believed he was the proudest.

“Before you sits the future of our community, country, and world and I stand here to tell you that makes me very proud,” Norton explained. “The young men and women in these seats are the beginning of a beautiful sunrise for our future.

“They may look like their faces and minds are always in their phones — and that is true — but I believe the purpose for their perceived distance is that of building a new world. A world that maybe we aren’t ready for, but we all know we need. This world won’t look much different than we already live but many walls we have built will be broken by the Class of 2019.”

Graduates of the class of 2019 have varied views and deep-rooted belief systems but no matter their disagreements they all seem to get along, according to Norton. And if they don’t, “They know a fight doesn’t have to ensue.

“They now know that they must work together to get anything done,” Norton added. “They will be the humans we need them to be, if you want to know more about the future, just ask them. They are now ready to have you listen.”

Class Valedictorian Akaycia Mather and Salutatorian Vladislav Husyev in a joint speech reflected on the four years of the high school the class has spent together.

As the students completed their freshman and sophomore years they learned the people seated among them were the ones they would lean on for support during their high school careers.

 “But with the change in title (to juniors) came the change in expectations,” Mather explained. “Not only were classes getting harder but our teachers and coaches were putting even more responsibilities on our shoulders. We may have originally been excited for our senior year, but all at once the existential dread of being seniors set in and we didn’t want to go even if it was just to the next year of school.”

As their senior final year began, a different feeling spread, according to Husyev. It was to become the “perfect definition of the word bittersweet.”

“Now it’s finally here. The moment of truth, the stepping stone to the real world,” Husyev said. “This is what they have been preparing us for.

“… It is finally time. Time to step out into that bright light, shake the hand of an administrator, and grab the ticket to freedom – the piece of paper that will remind us forever that we’ve accomplished something,” he continued. “Most of all, it is that time to look out among the fellow classmates and give one last farewell to those we will cherish the most.”

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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