Purdy grads bid adieu to high school careers

Wednesday, June 10, 2020
With the pop of a confetti cannon raining down black, gold and silver streamers and bits, seniors tossed their mortarboards high into the air, signifying the end of their high school careers at Saturday’s conclusion of Purdy High School graduation ceremonies. Melonie Roberts/Cassville Democrat

Future holds many opportunities

Purdy High School graduates bid a fond farewell to classmates and administrators during commencement ceremonies held Saturday evening at the district’s gymnasium.

Speakers for the event included Haylie Harris, Shana Whisman and Shelby Haskins.

A total of 30 students participated in commencement ceremonies, held Saturday at Purdy High School. Melonie Roberts/Cassville Democrat

Harris acknowledged the supporting roles played by their peers, friends, families and teachers, before speaking of the valuable lessons learned during her academic career.

“First, time flies, so don’t take it for granted,” she said. “When we started our journey as freshmen we thought that high school would take forever and we would eternally count down the days until graduation. However, freshman and sophomore years flew by, and junior year was a blur. Then COVID-19 stole a quarter of our senior year, and now, here we are. I don’t know about you, but I can say that I took coming to school for granted. I missed it. I missed seeing you all and being able to share these last few months with you. As we continue our journey

through life let us remember to enjoy each day for the gift that it is.

Haylie Harris, one of three speakers at Purdy High School graduation ceremonies Saturday, spoke of the accomplishments made by the class during their academic careers. Melonie Roberts/Cassville Democrat

“Second, treasure the good memories and the growth and success they brought, but also be grateful for the lessons learned during the bad times. We can all look back on our high school days and see both good and bad times which have shaped us into the people we are today. My personal thoughts turn toward my time in choir and track. From singing Disney songs at the top of our lungs at a SWCL conference event to traveling to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall and all the musicals, concerts and competitions in between, I am thankful for my choir family. They have seen me at my best and my worst, including pulling a couple of ‘Haylie’s.’ Musical cast members, you know what I mean. The applause, the ratings, the rehearsals and the trip destinations were amazing, but it was the people around me that made it all worthwhile.”

She also spoke of other lessons learned from her participation in choir and track before looking to the future.

“Finally, every ending is also a beginning. I remember saying to Mrs. Lee and Shana after this year’s State Honor Choir auditions, ‘Well, at least I made it to the end.’ The same can be said of our class. We did make it to the end despite everything we have faced, but here’s the deal. It’s not really the end. It’s the beginning. While our high school days are now over, the rest lie ahead.

Shana Whisman, one of three speakers at Saturday’s commencement ceremonies, held at Purdy High School, spoke of the challenges seniors had to overcome just to be able to sit in the seats designated for graduates. Melonie Roberts/Cassville Democrat

“We all have dreams, ambitions and obligations that will keep us striving to be successful. For some of us, that could be becoming a doctor, a business owner or the inventor of the next form of technology. Above all, we must make a positive impact on the people in our lives. I hope I have made a good one on you. Congratulations Class of 2020. I wish you all the best.”

Whisman spoke of underdogs and challenges.

“Every great story has an underdog,” she said. “In ‘Remember The Titans,’ it was, of course, the Titan. In David and Goliath, it was David. The list goes on and on about ordinary people making extraordinary things happen to overcome the impossible.

Shelby Haskins, one of three commencement speakers at Purdy High School graduation, held Saturday evening, spoke of how COVID-19 (coronavirus) changed the course of their academic careers. Melonie Roberts/Cassville Democrat

“In the story of the Class of 2020, it’s us. From as early as our middle school years we have defied odds, overcome obstacles, and found ourselves. Going into seventh grade we were told that we had finally reached the point of ‘graduating’ to the classrooms upstairs. That was something that we had looked forward to, everyone remembers the speeches, ‘You better start turning in your assignments on time because they don’t deal with late work ‘upstairs.’ That year they changed classrooms and the ‘upstairs’ ceased to exist.

“The summer before our freshman year, when we would finally walk the hallway that had intimidated us for so many years, they changed around the layout of the school, so the high school hallway didn’t exist anymore either. And finally, just when our high school careers were beginning to be normal, we were brought face-to-face with a pandemic.”

She spoke of the challenges she and her classmates have faced.

“We have been a class of change and adaptation,” she said. “We have learned to roll with the hits and to keep on moving forward. Every day, we woke up and we found markers in our life to show how much longer we had until something was over; six minutes and the game is over; one more song and the concert is over; 30 more minutes and our high school career is over.

“Every single one of us will remember one date for the rest of our lives. March 16, 2020. That was it for us, and nobody knew it. I, personally think that leaving that way was almost beautiful. We were ourselves that day, I was in sweatpants and a ponytail and thinking about my music competition. Some of us were dressed up, some of us were probably taking naps because it was gonna be a long week ahead. Some were preparing for baseball or softball. In that moment, we weren’t pretending or trying to be something that we weren’t. On Monday, March 16, 2020, we were us. We left our high school being exactly who we are, and I think that’s a legacy of epic proportions. And when the intercom rang, and the e-mail was sent, we were together. People told us all through high school to ‘hang on to it, it’ll be gone before you know it.’ You know the speech. When we heard of the break we held each other together, physically and mentally. We have never been closer than we were when we heard that e-mail. In that moment we weren’t our arguments, our differences, our drama. In that moment, we were more than friends, we were more than a class, we were more than a family. We held each other in our worst of times and that says a lot — not about our class or our teachers or even Purdy High School. It says a lot about the relationships that we’ve built and the people that we’ve become. I am so glad that I’ve been given the opportunity to know you, and to grow with you. I’m so grateful for the spirit days, the musicals, being in the stands at games. I’m thankful for my music competitions and for the naps. The lock-ins and FBLA competitions, the dances. I’m so grateful for every single one of you, and I’m grateful for the impact that you’ve had on my life. And I want to say thank you guys for holding me together at times.

She encouraged students to maintain the ability to adapt during trying circumstances.

“Every day in our lives, much like the underdog in every story, [there are] ways to break the mold and defy all odds. We look to find our own personal greatness. Starting today, our greatness is in our hands. We are finally able to break out of our shell and go on our journey. We’ll make mistakes, we’re going to fall down, sometimes we will fail. But the beauty of every underdog story is that no matter how many times the bad guy gets the underdog down, whether it be self doubt, or money, a big test, or an undefeated champion, a boss, or the odds are just stacked against them, the underdog will always succeed. That’s the beauty of our story. We are the underdog. One of these days, we won’t have to count down everything in our lives. One of these days the time will fly because we are where we are supposed to be. The best part of that, is that we don’t have to know right now where we will be. Now is the time to fall down and scrape your knees, wear your scars as armor, and fight. Fight to know who you are and to stay true to one person, yourself.

“Here at Purdy High School, we learn the basics. Soar, help others when they need you, keep your best interest and everyone else’s in mind before you act. Purdy has given us a foundation for greatness. Some days are harder than others in the world of high school. We’ve been through those hard days — six page papers due at midnight and we only have an intro paragraph, a loss at a game. We’ve had those rough days, but we’ve had the good days too. The 100 percent on a test that you were sure you bombed, sleepovers, late night food stops after games, lock-ins, and so many more. Take a second and look around. Today might very well be the last time some of us will ever be in this gym, ever see each other. Today will be the last day that we are all together in one place. Today, flashes of our past, present, and future surround us. We have fought hard to be in these chairs today. We’ve fought together, and occasionally against each other, but no matter what, one thing has stayed true: in the toughest of times, we have come together. No matter what the situation. The Class of 2020 has a bond unlike any other. Moments like these make me grateful for that.

Whisman concluded an underdog always has a true friend, and she was thankful to say she has a few.

“So stay true,” she said. “Fight for greatness. Even though not everybody’s greatness is the same. Strive for happiness in your life. Write your story and make it one that you are proud to tell. At the end of the day, one person is writing our story, one person is living our life — Us.”

Shelby Haskins spoke of first hearing that schools across the nation would be on a wellness break.

“I was working picture day with Coach Brown when we heard the news,” she said. “School will be closed until April 6. For some of my closest friends this meant their senior season of sports was up in the air. They were devastated. I thought about us FFA seniors. We’ve waited four years to get on that stage at the state convention to get our state degree. Was it going to happen? I thought about everything I had dreamed about. All the plans I made for the last two months of my senior year. Now it was all tossed up in the air. We were hopeless. We wanted to be in control of something uncontrollable. The break was extended and before we knew it, our time here at Purdy high school was over. Hard things happen in life and will continue to happen but it’s what comes next and what you learn from it that matters most. We grew closer and stronger as a class. I mean on April 6, Scotty Henry texted our college algebra class making sure we all got our work done. That never happened before. We didn’t realize how close we were as a class until we couldn’t be together anymore.

“We met at the library and got to see each other briefly. We had a bunch of laughs, but then the 11th person showed up so we were kind of breaking the law and had to split up. Although this was a very difficult time for me as well as the rest of my classmates, I’ve learned a lot since March 16, that I think is important for us to remember as we start this new chapter in our life. Don’t take things for granted. You never know when the last time will be. You think there will be more but, there might not be. Make every moment count. Do not focus on the troubles that come your way and miss out on the small joys that happen in your life every day, I think we’ve all learned that lesson.”

She also spoke of wishing her life away.

“The next thing I have learned is to live in the moment. Many of us wished the days of high school away not knowing how soon it would come. We were far too busy planning what comes next when we actually had no clue what was coming. I’ve tried my best to live in the moment since this pandemic and I highly encourage everyone here to try and do more of it. Be where you are, and be all there. Keep your loved ones close. We’ve all been cooped up in our houses with our siblings and parents and are probably going crazy but just hear me out. Family will always be there for you. They will always have your back. I mean look around in the stands real quick. Don’t take these people for granted. My family and I have Sunday lunches together every Sunday and when we couldn’t for several weeks I realized just how important they were to me. After that I valued our time together more than ever before.

“Life moves fast but take time to slow down and check in every once in a while. And most importantly, everything happens for a reason. This has never been so true to me. If COVID-19 wouldn’t have impacted us the way it did, what wouldn’t be in your life right now? How different would things be. For some, this gave time with loved ones that we would’ve never had. Or more time with your siblings before going off to college. Maybe it brought back an old friend group and led you to the tennis courts even though you had no clue how to play. I will cherish everything COVID-19 gave me that I would’ve never got to have without it. The spring semester of school is always the busiest. FBLA districts, early morning FFA contests, music competitions, yearbook pages due, scholarships, sports, whatever else there is. It was all gone. Everything slowed down. And honestly, I’m grateful for that. Slowing down gave me a chance to catch up. And talking to a lot of my classmates, it did the same for them. No matter what will come our way we will find the light, and the rainbow that comes with the rain, just like we always have.”

She expressed gratitude for many people in her life, as well as those of her peers.

Haskins thanked the group’s classmates for the countless laughs, memories, for pushing them to be the best they can be, and for picking them up when they failed.

“Thank you to the custodians around our school who make this place look great every single day, for cleaning up after us even though we aren’t your kids, for always showing me a smile and checking in on us almost every day in the halls,” she said. “We appreciate you all more than you know. Thank you to all of our teachers who have taught us so much, those who have read through our papers, getting halfway through then giving up, for being an ear to listen to our life problems, for giving us some of the best advice we will ever receive, and for growing closer relationships with us that we will cherish forever. Thank you to the graduate’s parents and guardians. Thank you for believing in us. For keeping us true to ourselves. For putting in so much time and money into everything we do. Sorry for being so involved, but thank you for supporting us. You are the best role models we could have. We could never thank you enough. We owe it all to you guys. Thank you. I want to thank God for giving me this opportunity. For giving me my strength and courage to press on both academically and spiritually. And I thank him for leading me down my path and all of the blessings I have had through him. Last but not least, thank you to everyone here today who listened to me ramble on. Thank you for being a part of our journey. We didn’t know it would end so soon. But I guess that’s how life goes, we never truly know what happens next.

“My advice for my classmates before we go our separate ways, as well as everyone here today, slow down. Look around you every once in a while and appreciate where you are in life. You never know when a pandemic might hit you.”

Dr. Derek Banwart, principal, and Todd Schallert, school board president, awarded diplomas to: Ximena Aldava, Dylan Brown, Zane Brown, Kimberly Coyoy, Edwin Flores, Cesar Garcia, Ezequiel Gaucin, Yesica Gomez, Joy Grace, Heather Greenway, Alberto Haros, Haylie Harris, Shelby Haskins, Scotty Henry, Elizabeth Hoffman, Ashlie Johnson, Ericka Lopez-Ramirez, Dylan Lozano, Andrew Martinez, Asley Mejia, Shadyn Minton, Charles Mitchell, Brandon Perkins, Antonio Rodriguez, Soledad Salas, Randy Schad, Harley Stephens, Sean Thomas, Shana Whisman and Kylie Wood.

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