Grain Valley High School

110th Commencement

Class size: 313 graduates

Summa Cum Laude and Missouri Bright Flight (top 3 percent on ACT): Oakley Barham, Colin Beal, Drake Bray, Aidan Callaghan, Hailey Chase, Jasleen Kaur, Mason McGregor, Olivia Rippee, Gentry Stephenson, Logan Welle

Post-secondary: At least $2.89 million in potential renewable scholarships.

Speakers: Emma Taylor (student): “It is moments like these when life seems to catch up with us fast,” Taylor said, adding that “It's all right if you walk out of here not knowing what you'll do next,” because should be about enjoying what you've done and who you are.

Taylor said hope can be defined beyond what the dictionary says. It can be taking an AP course as a sophomore thinking it will be easy, taking more AP classes as a junior because you didn't learn your lesson, an improbable game-winning touchdown catch, being a marching band from a small town selected to march in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and being able to cope and move on after the sudden loss of a classmate.

“This right here, this is hope,” she said. “May we never be hopeless, because we are the hope of the future.”

Julie Taylor (faculty, mother of Emma): She recalled road trips as a child when she would ask how much longer or if they were there yet.

“I realized, it was never just one more mile,” she said, and by constantly asking the question, she didn't enjoy the journey itself – worrying too much about the future.

“In reality, there is no finish line; just the end of one journey in the beginning of another,” said Taylor, an English teacher and cheerleading coach. “Be present and live in the now.”

For that journey, she said, one needs an inner compass to be pointed in the right direction and one’s own light to see the way.

When one finds their true, big passion, she said, “Your compass will lead you to your true north,” and if others distract the path, one's inner compass will continue to point to the true north.

“You too can get back on your path,” she said.

Taylor told the students they were all a light for her when she changed teaching jobs and joined the Grain Valley District unsure of what to expect.

“We are all counting on you,” she said, “to make this world a better place by shining your light with others.”

– Mike Genet