Wisdom of Benjamin I. Krause, Jefferson City High School's Class of 2019 valedictorian: "the beautiful thing about life" is its unknown, that life is not about having answers, but living with questions.
"We're the ones who make it known."
The chief question many speakers remarked about at the JCHS commencement ceremony was what it will be like to have two public high schools in Jefferson City.
As JCHS Principal Robert James said to the graduating students — the 145th class to become JCHS alums — graduation is a celebration of the road traveled, and not just the achievement reached.
James said the 550 members of the JCHS Class of 2019 is the last to graduate before Jefferson City has two public high schools. As renovations to the current high school take place, the class of 2019 will be the last set of graduates that leave a JCHS with window air conditioning units and only one high school gym, he added.
Many of the staff and student speakers at Sunday's graduation noted the construction, and how students have had to adapt to the projects underway as they still had to learn.
As class president Zoe J. Beavers said, the students of the class of 2019 are leaving a half-finished, but beautiful JCHS.
Beavers added that what high school is about is "gaining knowledge, getting to know yourself and breaking barriers."
U.S. Navy veteran George Ousley experienced all of that when he left JCHS in 1965 as a 17-year-old to enlist and serve his country, and doing his part in the Vietnam War.
Ousley, 71, of Columbia, never got a high school diploma because of that choice, though, until Sunday — through a Missouri program called Operation Recognition.
"I never thought that I would ever be here," Ousley said at the podium on the field at Adkins, dressed in a red cap and gown like all the other soon-to-be graduates before him.
He held back his emotions as he thought about how proud his mother would be of him.
Ousley said he would proudly hang his tassel on the mirror of his 1962 Chevrolet.
JCHS also proudly noted the accomplishments of some of the students in the class of 2019.
The class had nine graduates with grade point averages between 3.95 and 3.999: Morgan E. Jordan, Cole A. Harper, Kaira F. M. Podadera, Tucker J. Schwartz, Alexander L. Fitch, Michael J. Wang, Lauren R. Tuck, Trent E. Kempker and Audrey E. Q. Bowman.
The class also had 18 salutatorians, who had grade point averages of 4.0 or higher: Madison A. Connell, Connor J. Hankins, Mira H. Gandhi, Brett N. Kolb, David Helmick III, Hannah N. Keely, Joshua T. Buzard, Leticia A. Nketiah, Ryan T. Brooks, Katie A. Vogel, Madeline G. Jones, William P. Mollenkamp, Lane J. Atchison, Valerie H. Holt, Rebecca L. Johanns, Elijah T. Hilty, Samantha L. Swinfard and Anna G. Spalding.
Sabien J. Kent and Valerie H. Holt were announced as recipients of awards from the American Legion; Sawyer B. Bohannan and Leticia A. Nketiah were recipients of awards from the VFW; and Cole A. Harper and Natalie N. Wiens, received the All-School Service Award.
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Wiens was also the student council president.
"As I look back at my greatest high school memories, many of them involve a group of dedicated students these memories were created because of your passion. Thank you. Remember to keep that passion alive as each of you continue your life after graduation," she advised.
"Jaybirds, it's up to you to write your own narrative. No one will remember whether you were on homecoming court, or if you had a thousand patches on your varsity jacket, but someone will remember that you were the nice person that invited them to eat with them at lunch, when no one else did," Beavers said.
Likewise, Krause said that because of life's unknowns, the only thing that can be controlled is who we are and how we react to things — choices are what shape us.
He advised fellow classmates to be the changes they want to see in the world; don't just pursue happiness, but create it.
"Our best days are ahead of us," even though the past ones were pretty good, too, he said — adding "I love you guys 3000."