Purdy graduation celebrates spirit, achievement

Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Purdy graduates tossed their hats and blasted each other with Silly String to conclude graduation ceremonies on Sunday. Murray Bishoff/Cassville Democrat

More photos from Purdy's graduation may be found at: https://www.cassville-democrat.com/gallery/34841.

Speakers define class uniqueness, urge focus, fearlessness

Speakers for graduation for the Class of 2019 at Purdy High School focused on personal reflections, meaningful memories and encouragement heading into new territory.

A choir of seniors, led by teacher Lauren Lee, sang “You’re Gonna Miss This” for graduation. Pictured, from left, are Lee, Myrka Salas, Haylie Henderson, Vanessa Salazar, Jake Kellar, Avery Hancock and Shelby Heston. Dixie Breon was the accompanist. Murray Bishoff/Cassville Democrat

The 50 members of the graduating class has designations for the Greek honor system for the first time. Eight graduated sum cum laude, with a grade point average of 4.0 or higher. Five graduated magna cum laude, with a GPA of 3.75 to 3.99, and one graduated cum laude, with a GPA of 3.5 to 3.74. Colored stoles identified the graduates with specific stature.

This was the final year the school had a valedictorian and salutatorian. Hannah Reid and Emma Harkey were identified as the two top graduates by student speaker Madison Renkoski. The school board voted to introduce the Greek system last year to provide a broader scope for high achievement, leaving one more class expecting to have top graduates identified to have that honor and wear a corresponding medallion.

Renkoski applied for the honor of speaking, and joked that she was “the only option.” She described her class as a bit different ― the group in middle school that had to put their band instruments on the shelf and sit on the floor because they wouldn't concentrate, the ones that whistled when a teacher turned her back to convince her she had a hearing problem, and the class that made “sheep sounds” all through seventh grade.

“We earned the title 'bridge shakers' and had isolated lunch for a week after proving we could not handle walking across a rotting wood bridge without testing the safety by shaking the railing and jumping all the way across, putting our entire class' lives ― or at least health ― at stake,” Renkoski said. “Our teachers grounded us a lot. We irritated a good number of people by hitting 'reply all' in a school-wide email. Only like 12 of us got up early in the morning to take the senior picture for yearbook. We strived to have a good time. We know how to have fun and we laughed so much, but we learned how to have fun while working hard. We learned a lot of lessons through the years. All humans do. That’s what life is. Through our time in school, we went through the years and created ourselves.”

Renkoski noted parents, teachers, coaches and mentors taught the group how to use high energy for good instead of rowdiness. Classmates figured out how to get along and overcome differences. While they may not remember the plays taught by coaches, Renkoski said they will remember “how our teachers listened to us and helped us find our voice.” She acknowledged a debt to teachers who listened and never gave up on their students.

“Our future paths may take us away from big Purdy, Mo., but I'm so thankful we grew up together in this small town, home to people who truly see us as more than students, home to the ones that saw us as human beings.”

She advised following advice of classmate Edgar Juarez, which she translated into “Let the arrows bounce off of you and keep on keepin' on.”

Misty Hall, middle school and high school social studies teacher, was selected by the class to give the faculty address. She started by offering assurances that if the graduates needed help with a resumé, practicing for an interview or ideas for a research paper, that she would always be there for them.

Hall recalled her own teachers, whom she named, and how they inspired and supported her, and still stay in touch with her. She then walked the class through first encounters with them, thanking them for drawings, conversations and a trove of yellow pencils and markers hidden in her classroom. She remembered the animal sounds, noting that through that, she gained parents' phone numbers, which she used to make new friends.

“I recall teasing you that I should film you all making those sounds so I could play them at your graduation and you could see how silly you were being,” Hill said. “Their reply was 'We will always be like this.' No truer words have been spoken.”

Beyond that, Hall warned that life would be filled with mistakes and “messing up,” but that life was made of trying again and doing better, never failing to provide new lessons.

Picking up lines from author A.A. Milne, Hall quoted, “You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” She stressed to the graduates that only they could stop themselves.

“Chase your goals, not your dream, because what you dream of should be goals,” she said. “Whenever you think nothing can get worse, know that it can, so learn to weather the storm. My life mantra is: Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

Hall concluded her talk by whipping out a selfie stick, gathering the class together and taking a final photo.

The commentary fit under the class motto from country singer Tim McGraw: “Chase your dreams but always know the road that'll lead you home again.” Music for the day was provided by the six-member senior choir, joined by director Lauren Lee, singing, “You're Gonna Miss This.”

Following the presentation of diplomas and the turning of tassels on the mortar board hats, classmates processed from the gym, returning armed with cans of Silly String and confetti cannons. Their hat toss turned into a shower of debris and less of hats, as it seems many kept those on for protection. With that, the ceremony ended and the celebration continued until the lights in the gym were turned out.

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