South Callaway High School's Class of 2023 graduated Sunday in Mokane, when 59 students walked across the football field.
Corey Pontius, South Callaway R-II superintendent, began the ceremony by recognizing the district's board of education, administration, teachers and staff.
Pontius also thanked all family members and friends in attendance at the ceremony, as they all had "a vital part to play in getting our graduates to this point."
He said it was an honor to watch the graduates grow throughout their time at South Callaway.
"Please know that even though you are moving onto new challenges, your South Callaway family will be right here rooting you on every step of the way," Pontius said.
Heather Helsel, high school principal, said she started at South Callaway the same year the Class of 2023 started kindergarten,
"Now after 13 years, you've made it to the finish line. We know that this is a very special place, and you are a very special class. I'm so happy to stand before you this graduation day to honor you in front your of family and friends," Helsel said.
She thanked the high school faculty and staff for their dedication and perseverance to the students. She described teaching as a "profession of unconditional love and timeless dedication."
Of the graduating class, 15 students graduated as members of National Honor Society. Helsel recognized these students.
She also recognized the top two students in the graduating class, Alaina McCray (salutatorian) and Cassidy Mealy (valedictorian).
The speaker for the Class of 2023 was Rylie Blankenship, who served as student body president and was involved in several clubs.
"Now that graduation day is finally here, I can't help but think of myself when we were younger and reflect that the year 2023 felt so far away," Blankenship said. "It felt as though this day was never going to come, and yet here we all are together."
She said she felt sad that their South Callaway journey was finally coming to a close.
In her address, Blankenship related the movies "Twilight," "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" to their graduation.
"Thank you to everyone who helped us along the way, and in conclusion, make sure to thank yourself. We did it Class of 2023, we finally did it. And as Adam Sandler stated in 'Billy Madison,' 'Peace, we're out of here,'" Blankenship said.
The commencement speaker for the ceremony was Elise (Frazee) Bartley, who was the class president for the Class of 2003. She is the daughter of Bill Frazee, retired teacher and current coach at South Callaway, and Sharon Frazee, retired teacher and current board of education vice president.
She is an associate teaching professor and FORVIS teaching scholar at the University of Missouri school of accountancy.
Bartley said that given her who her parents are, it should be "easy to deduce how important this school and this community are to my family and I."
She shared with the graduates some lessons from pop culture in 2003. She played some clips from songs popular in 2003, and shared some insight with the graduates.
"If you end up three miles from the school like I did or 3,000 miles away, don't forget that this is home and you were put here in this place and time for a reason. It made you who you are, and that's exactly who you should be," Bartley said.