Blue Springs South High School

Sunday, Municipal Auditorium

Class size: 464 graduates

Top 1 percent: Riley Jackson, Adam Ryan, Andrew Self, Rushil Thakker, Kelsey Trapp

Post-secondary: $7.8 million in renewable scholarships

Academic Excellence Award: Haider Cheema, Riley Jackson

Keith Maxey Outstanding Senior Award: Haider Cheema, Casey Main


Riley Smith: She recalled learning in fourth grade about the five W's in writing a story – who, what, where, when, why – and how that's still applicable when thinking of the experiences and memories that make up one's life story.

“Whether we know it or not, we've always been directed back to those five W's,” she said.

“Don't fear moving forward slowly, but do fear standing still. … We are graduating today because we kept moving forward in the times when it seemed impossible.”

Addison Graham: He said a freshman year classmate talked of just coasting through high school, going through the motions and getting the diploma. Graham said that seemed perfectly fine until he met teacher Dave Sheridan, who challenged students to be active and try new experiences.

Graham said one particular line from Sheridan, who died from cancer in 2016, struck: “You never really know how successful you can be until you try.”

“It was about learning to be confident in yourself and still humble in a crowd,” he said.

Graham said it's important to seek self-improvement and push oneself rather than just go through the motions.

“Who you are today is far more important than who you were as a freshman,” he said, “and who you will eventually become is far more important than who you are today.”


Blue Springs High School

Sunday, Municipal Auditorium

Class size: 588 graduates

Top 1 percent: Koba Butkovich, Olivia Isaacks, Hannah Kassing, Holly Roustio, Emma Stoltz, Jacob Tribble

Post-secondary: $7.8 million in renewable scholarships


Mercy Otiato: Just as her father never misses a chance to remind about her heritage, Otiato said – mostly by telling what life was like for him – one should never forget their identity, and not disregard opportunities that present themselves.

“We truly have the opportunity to be unstoppable,” Otiato said. “There's still so much to learn from the people around you.”

Also, she said, don't miss chances to celebrate even small accomplishments, because many times the world won't celebrate on your behalf and only you can truly understand how much an accomplishment means to yourself.

“Celebrate yourself – not just when you're expected to, but every moment you get,” Otiato said. “You've got to be your biggest congratulator.”

Caleb Shull: He recalled a recent day after a debate tournament loss, when he and friends planned to eat at IHOP, but a busted a tire caused one carload to be so late that a reserved table was lost, and so were “our pancake dreams.” While it seemed bad at the time and the friends had to settle for Winstead's, Shull said, it truly wasn't as bad as originally thought.

Just so, he said, are so many other moments in high school, like the breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, an embarrassing act or a bad hair day. Far more important, he emphasized, are the decisions and the moments still to come.

“The idea that that moment didn't have to haunt us, that's a metaphor for life,” Shull said. “Almost none of everything that has happened matters. It's a Friday afternoon bell of our lives.

“It is about what you decide to do from now on that people ought to remember.”


Truman High School

54th Commencement

Saturday, Community of Christ Auditorium

Class size: 385 graduates

Top 1 percent, Board Scholar Award: Logan Boone, Elizabeth Clark, Remy Mathenia, Rachel Millard, Keegan Welch


Elizabeth Clark (“Adventures of a Lifetime”): “I'm glad we've all been able to share this part of our adventure together.”

Remy Mathenia (“Packing Your Bags”): Mathenia said there is not much need now to pack for the next journey, because of the knowledge one has already gained. However, there's still plenty more to pick up along the way.”

“You've already done much of the prep work,” he said. “But along this journey there is no such thing as overpacking.”

Rachel Millard (“Leaving Home”): “Fear is what pushes us to do things we wouldn't think of doing. Go out there and prove you can be more than your fears.”

Logan Boone (“Arrival”): Boone said that no matter where you are heading next, it's likely there's an element of the unknown – both for you and others. “When you first arrive, there's a good chance you're going to be lost,” he said.

So, one must rely on their knowledge – and the power that comes with it – but do so responsibly.

Keegan Welch (“Leaving a Legacy”): Building on Shakespeare's quote, Welch said that while some are born to greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them, “I believe that each and every one of you can achieve greatness.”

One's legacy, he said, is not built on likes, shares or retweets, but through real, genuine communication with others

“Your legacy,” he said, “will be your compassion and your character.”


Van Horn High School

62nd Commencement

Saturday, Community of Christ Auditorium

Class size: 194 graduates

Board Scholar Award: Rochelle Garciano (valedictorian), Anna Bogart (salutatorian), King Butcher, Chase Siedlik


Rochelle Garciano: Garciano talked about the importance of having grit, and that she knows everyone in the class has had to have it at some point.

“Grit is perseverance,” she said. “It has helped me through my personal troubles. It helped us through our own struggles.

“Here we are, and I am proud of each and every one of you.”

Anna Bogart: With a military parent, Bogart has been used to traveling, and having realized some of the benefits of that, she encouraged her classmates to travel somewhere, if even a day trip somewhere in Missouri. Such travel can lead to new friends, new connections, or even a great new job.

“Travel is essential to being happy,” she said. “Until you get away from home, you can't truly understand how huge the world is.

“Just make sure to enjoy the experience. Take the journey that best suits you.”


William Chrisman

130th Commencement

Saturday, Community of Christ Auditorium

Class size: 276 graduates

Top 1 percent: Nicolette Bowman, Connor Jones, Hannah Kimbrough

Speakers: Kimbrough, Bowman, Jones, Vanesa Rodriguez

Rodriguez: She said she vividly remembered her first day at Chrisman, having come from another country and arriving at school with fear.

“As the days and weeks and months went by, I started feeling at home,” Rodriguez said. “As a class, we've experienced so much … grown and developed. We've been able to find who we are and prepare for the future, to bring new life to old things.

“We're really strong and capable of so much, and with passion and dedication we can do so much. Never stop growing.”

Jones: “Thank you for making our path at William Chrisman wonderful. Good luck to each and every one of you.”