Nearly 260 students received their diplomas Tuesday night during the school's 104th annual commencement program at the Sikeston Field House. And leading the graduating class toward its new beginning were valedictorians Cullen DeHart and Katie Jennings and salutatorian E.C. Atchison.
Jennings was also the author of the class poem. Following the presentation of the night's speakers by senior Hallie Lambert, Jennings read her poem, "A Wallet Full of Pictures."
In her poem, Jennings explained the young adults may empty their wallets of senior pictures and pictures throughout the years, leaving behind the memories. But new memories will be made, and new pictures will fill the space in their wallets.
Earlier this year nine seniors competed for the right to address family and friends during the ceremony at the Sikeston Field House. Selected speakers were DeHart, Meredyth Moyers, Josh Powers and Whitney Wallace. Each student's speech was drafted with an underlying theme to Jennings' poem.
"Once something happens in life, you should live with the consequences, whether positive or negative," DeHart said.
Moyers took a sentimental approach in her speech, "A Walk to Remember." She told the crowd how the students' peers, mentors and parents have molded them into what they are today and that students should continue to build their lives and become what they were meant to be.
In "Jump Right In and Play the Game," Powers, used sports to advise his peers on not sitting back and letting go of life.
"Graduation is a new beginning," Powers said. "It's not championship game. It's not the play offs. It's just opening day. From here on, life starts now. It's not an ending -- just a beginning."
Wallace's "Looking at the Past," commended parents for their selfless acts through the years. She encouraged her peers to move forward and accomplish their dreams.
Introducing senior high principal Tom Williams was Erin Bell while Mat Boes introduced superintendent Steve Borgsmiller and LaRaven Newman introduced Ann Jones, board of education president.
Of the graduating seniors, 78 percent plan to attend post secondary education, which includes vocational, two-year, four-year institutions. Eight percent will enter into the military; 11 percent into the workforce; and 3 percent remain undecided.
Among the institutions seniors plan to attend are the University of Missouri-
Columbia, Murray State University, Three Rivers Community College, Southeast Missouri State University, Missouri State University-Springfield and Arkansas State University with several taking advantage of the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center.
Over $1 million in scholarships was awarded to several of the students Tuesday night. Nine received Bright Flight scholarships, and 22 received A+ certification.
"What has impressed me about this class is the amount of community service they have done," said senior counselor Debbie Hampton. "Many have done multiple hours in community service -- whether through their church, community or missionary work."
More than 10 percent of the class and 37 students graduated with community service distinctions. Seventeen students walked with gold cords, meaning they completed 100 or more hours of community service; two walked with silver cords, or 75 or more hours of community service; and 18 walked with bronze cords or 50 or more hours of community service.
Like most students, graduating senior Katie Massey, who has about 50 community service hours through the A+ program, said she started doing community service so she could receive scholarships. A lot of scholarships are based on community service, she said.
Massey, who will begin classes in August through Southeast Missouri State University at the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center, was among the teary-eyed seniors Tuesday night.
"But it will be OK," she assured. "Because I don't think it will hit until I start school. Right now it's just like summer vacation."