Perryville student commencement speaker Drew Layton could only think of one word as he and his classmates walked out of Perryville High School for the last time: bittersweet.
“I used to say that I couldn’t wait to graduate,” Layton said. “But the adults in my life would always tell me to enjoy high school while I’m still in it. Now as it all comes to an end, I knew they were right.”
Most, if not all, of the 170 seniors at Perryville High School probably had similar feelings during the graduation ceremony Friday at the Perry Park Center.
“While I’m excited like many of my classmates to move onto the next chapter of my life, my heart is filled with sadness,” Layton said. “This is the last time we will be in the same room together.”
While they may not be in high school anymore, Layton challenged his classmates to be a positive influence and make as much of an impact on the world as they can going forward.
“Our world faces many challenges,” Layton said. “As we grow and blossom into the next leaders and stewards of the planet, I do not believe that any challenge is too great to hopefully make this world a better place.”
How does he know this? The class of 2023 has already overcome many challenging times.
“We have already overcome a lifetime of challenges in four years,” he said. “We have had to grieve the loss of two of our classmates, survived a once in a century pandemic that saw our nation close down, and only come back to a completely different world than the one we left. We were able to adapt to this new world that we are living in. We did not let anything deter us on our road to graduation.”
A total of 27 students graduated with honors: Summa Cum Laude: Carson Adams, Anna Brewer, Megan Kluender, Dane Lauck, Drew Layton, Angel Mathathath, Jason Robinson, Ashlyn Rodewald. Magna Cum Laude: Mariah Bauwens, Analia Boxdorfer, Natalie Casillas, Lydia Chotrow, Mackenzie Dillahay, Jaelyn Kennedy, Alyssa King, Jonathan Kluender, Caden Litterst, Kylee Lukefahr, Samuel Mueller, Leah Picou, Ben Rehagen, Rachel Riney, Samantha Yamnitz. Cum Laude: Tegan Bishop, Lillianne Franklin, Carlie Schemel, and Kyla Schnurbusch.
Staff Commencement speaker John Cross referenced many movies to describe the senior graduates’ time at Perryville, through four final lessons.
“The first lesson is courage,” Cross said. “Try something new. As described in ‘We Bought A Zoo’, everyone needs to experience 20 seconds of insane courage to do something new. The second lesson is compassion and humility. No matter how successful you become, remember there is always something new to learn. This is best represented in ‘Cars’ When Lightning McQueen though the could do everything on his own. The third lesson is how to cope with changes and failure. So remember the Wildcats’ motto in ‘High School Musical’ that we are all in this together and having a strong support staff is vital. The fourth lesson is commitment like wax on, wax off in the Karate Kid. You have used the experiences in high school to pursue a chosen field to make a difference. Whereever you go in life, remember the words of Aladdin that it’s a whole new world with a new point of view.”
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