Independence School District high school graduations

By Mike Genet
The Examiner

Van Horn High School 

65th annual commencement, Saturday, Norman James Field, William Chrisman High School stadium 

Class size: 225 graduates 

Top 1 percent: Kobe Messick, Cinthia Martinez-Cerna, Stevie Watkins 

Post-secondary: $2.178 million in scholarship dollars awarded 

'As Falcons we take pride in flying together. We stayed together through crisis and controversy,' Kobe Messick told his fellow Van Horn High School graduates.

Class speaker: While many see graduation as the “elusive finish line for our perceived adolescence,” Messick said, “I see merely a checkpoint to our yet-to-be-determined destinations.” 

This Van Horn graduation class came in with plenty of academic and athletic potential, and Messick said he’s confident his classmates will net “a plethora of success stories and prove that the potential we possess wasn’t just for show.” 

Messick said he learned at Van Horn how to embrace the underdog role. 

“I personally want to thank any critics, doubters or downright mistreaters of Van Horn for putting a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “That will be benefit me for the rest of my life.” 

The school, he added, “taught me what it meant to be the little guy, even when you’re not really the little guy.” 

“As Falcons we take pride in flying together,” he said. “We stayed together through crisis and controversy.” 

Truman High School 

52nd annual commencement, Saturday, Truman High School stadium 

Class size: 370 graduates 

Top 1 percent: Katherine Ameku, Garrett Burton, Aaron Holloway, Joshua Nunn 

The 370 members of the Truman High School Class of 2021 walk into Saturday's graduation ceremony.

Post-secondary: $2.567 million in scholarship dollars awarded 

Class speaker:  

Hadley Brillhart: School had always been “just school” to Brillhart until the pandemic upended things and students didn’t know if they had in-person or virtual for school, let alone graduation. 

In the midst of chaos, Brillhart said, “I started to bake – a lot. I would start whipping up cake, cookies, brownies, literally anything.” 

She also realized some parallels between baking and her class and school. A cake cannot be made with just one ingredient and instead takes all kinds.  

“And these ingredients are not good on their own,” Brillhart said. “Sugar is just sugar; flour is just flour; but when combined with all other ingredients, something special just happens. 

“We are all so different. I’m convinced that I see a new face in the halls of Truman every day.” 

A cake also doesn’t have to look pretty to taste good, she said, and this school year has been an ugly cake. However, “All we have to do is take a bite to see how we’ve learned to appreciate the little things, take of ourselves and learned the importance of community.” 

Many different recipes can lead to delicious cakes, just as graduates will all have different paths to success, Brillhart said. 

“You have all done the hard work of making this cake,” she said, “so now it’s time to take a step back and enjoy it.” 

William Chrisman High School 

133rd annual commencement, Saturday, Norman James Field, William Chrisman High School stadium 

Class size: 296 graduates 

William Chrisman High School graduates celebrate the big moment.

Top 1 percent: Bank Daniel, Madelyne Stilwell, Barivure Yorka, Burabari Yorka 

Class speaker:  

Bank Daniel: The Harvard-bound Daniel paid tribute to classmate and friend Alec Heatwhole, who was lost to illness in this past November. In the year-plus of pandemic, he said, “We all learned a little something about our skills, our ability to succeed, our limits.” 

Daniel said he learned about his limits from one of the times he paid attention in calculus class. 

“In mathematics, a limit is a value we get closer and closer to, but never quite reach,” he said. “In searching our functions, there is no value to approach.”  

To recall a scene from the movie “Mean Girls,” he added. “The limit does not exist.” 

Limits are integral to calculus but hold a different meaning outside mathematics, Daniel said, and if graduates are the metaphorical functions, “then are actions and circumstances together serve as our limits.” 

As such, Daniel said, he challenged his classmates “to live life limitlessly. We have to maximize our effort and ambitions. Now it’s time for the wider world to witness our boundless abilities.”  

Daniel then mentioned his parents, who worked hard to emigrate from Nigeria and give their children a better life.  

“I am immensely grateful for my parents and the limitless example they showed to me.”