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’Now’s the time’ – Grain Valley graduates 276

Staff Writer
The Examiner
Grain Valley graduates celebrated Friday night at the Multipurpose Building at the University of Central Missouri.

Grain Valley High School 112th Commencement

Friday night at the University of Central Missouri Multipurpose Building

Class size: 276 graduates

Summa cum laude and Missouri Bright Flight (4.0+ GPA and 30+ ACT): Piper Barnard, Seth Grisham, Shaley Harper, Austin Hoagland, Koby Powell, Jacob Sanders, Dane Sherwood, Collin Tischner, Mackensie Wagner, Tristin Whitton

Post-secondary: $4.02 million in first-year scholarships

Class speakers: Piper Barnard, Eric Ball (student-selected faculty speaker)

Barnard said she considered the graduating class “brilliantly resilient” for how it managed through the end of its senior year.

“I think we’ve achieved a new level in thinking this is a day we never thought would happen at all,” Barnard said, “yet here we are today.”

While the pandemic led to unique moments like morning video chats for class “with teachers wearing T-shirts and probably pajama bottoms,” Barnard said she’ll also remember community displays like the parade of honking cars.

“Across the world, I’ve seen countless displays of community,” she said. “If nothing else, our class leaves in the unique position of being able to understand how incredible our community has been.”

Commencement, of course, doesn’t mean the end of something but rather the beginning of something else, Barnard said.

“Now’s the time to figure out what we care about; now’s the time to fall in love with the world and our passions,” she said, also listing that it’s time to figure out laundry, fall back on the community if needed, embrace diversity and care about ecological destruction.

“Now’s the time to be an activist, or a doctor, or a politician, a writer, or a comedian, or a musician, or all of those things, because you’re just so indecisive,” she said. “Class of 2020, it’s finally our time.”

Ball, a 12-year social studies studies teacher, said what he’ll remember most about the graduating class is its variety in anything, so to have a commencement so different – months later, socially distanced and in another county – is not a surprise.

“This collective was one with a variety of different personalities,” he said, “a span of diverse talents and abilities, a range of students undefined by a single explanation, uncharacterized by a single description, unbound by any single label.”

Graduation speeches, Ball said, aren’t about any words of wisdom or grand story from him, but about the voices of the graduates themselves.

After having groups of graduates stand and yell “Class of 2020!” when he listed the various future paths they will take, Ball said the Class of 2020’s voices are not about pity or sorrow because of recent and current events, but of what they will do.

They will be voices, Ball said, make policy and law, explore the world and beyond, defend the country and its freedoms, fight for justice, save lives, speak for protecting planet and conserving natural resources, educate the unknowing, build roads and machines, meet needs through hospitality, takes risks as business owners, bring the spiritual word to others, guide people as parents and mentors

“Go into this world,” Ball said, “and let the rest of the world here you.”

– Compiled by Mike Genet