While graduation was bittersweet for the 36 students who graduated Sunday from Cole County R-5 High School in Eugene, many said they are looking forward to the next chapters of their lives.
Salutatorian Paige Rademann told the class of 2019 to "take pride in how far you have come and have faith in how far you can go." She added the path to graduation has not always been easy, as many of them have dealt with loss, anxiety, relationship problems, family issues, school obligations, jobs and more.
"While some journeys were easier than others, the good news is each and every one of you sitting here today in a black and white gown has overcome difficulties to make this happen," said Rademann, who plans to attend Missouri Valley College in Marshall on a softball scholarship and pursue a degree in sports management or business.
The class motto sums up many of the graduates' favorite moments from high school: "Life brings us tears, smiles and memories. The tears dry, the smiles fade, but the memories last forever."
Dawning black and white caps and gowns, the graduates said they will always remember softball games, track meets, their senior prank, homecoming, and fun times with friends — inside and outside the classroom.
Most of the graduates remember attending pre-school and kindergarten together and have grown close over the years.
"We have a pretty small class but you end up knowing everyone and we're all fairly close. You make memories with pretty much everyone in the class and it's a lot of fun," said valedictorian Leo Hager, who plans to attend Missouri S&T in Rolla to pursue a degree in chemical engineering or aerospace engineering.
While the graduates said it was scary graduating from high school, many said they were excited for the next chapter in their lives. Taylor Luebbering and Cameron Haeffner plan to attend Ozark Technical College in Springfield. Luebbering wants to pursue a degree in dental assisting while Haeffner plans to pursue a biology degree.
"I'm so excited. I've been waiting for this all year, since like junior year actually. I'm glad I've got all of my friends around me to do this, so that's awesome," Luebbering said.
While there were 38 students in the 2019 class, a couple of them were not present at Sunday's graduation.