Grain Valley High School

111th Commencement

Class size: 284 graduates

Summa cum laude and Missouri Bright Flight (4.0+ GPA and 30+ ACT): Karley Drabik, Ethan Grasher, Mason Gray, Emily Leske, Madyson Marrs, Ronald Mobley, Garrett Olwell, Elijah Rush, Robert Stowe, Ben Totta

Post-secondary: $3.85 million in first-year scholarships

Class speakers: Bailey McKay: “We have survived the very real disease of senioritis,” McKay said, referring to the final push through high school that sometimes students don't take seriously. “Now we must learn to survive in the world outside of high school.”

McKay urged her classmates to take paths not just based on money or what their parents might do.

“Money can't buy love and happiness,” she said. “That comes from the heart; you can't google ‘What makes you happy.’

“It doesn't matter what you do as long as you follow your passion. Make new footprints; don't follow old ones.”

Faculty speaker (chosen by students) Eric Van Vleet: The fourth-year Spanish teacher and coach remembered starting his first job out of college, seeing the new freshmen and wondering how they were going to get to know each other. He then discussed how he and many students grew closer over the years.

“We have one more family photo to take,” he said, proceeding to pull out a selfie stick for his smartphone.

Van Vleet rattled off a few of the silly quotes students had unknowingly provided his memory bank over the years, such as “How do you say enchilada in Spanish?” and “I've got this pimple in my ear. Do I need to see a doctor?” and most memorably, “Van Vleet, she won't date you if you only have 13 followers.”

The teacher also told the graduates to recognize and seize chances that life presents them.

“Opportunities are like lightning,” he said. “They never strike in the same place twice, and they're powerful.

“Do what makes you, you.”

– Compiled by Mike Genet