There were 42 names printed in the graduation ceremony program for New Bloomfield High School's Class of 2019, and while life doesn't always go by a program, speakers at Friday night's commencement reminded the class the values and relationships of their small community can help them succeed in the bigger world beyond.
"Some people would call a small school in such a small town a disadvantage, but I don't see it that way. We are so much more than just a small school. In my eyes, we are one big family," valedictorian Parker Pitzen said.
"We have all gained close friendships, and you could even say that we've gained some new siblings, even if we truly did not ask for them," Pitzen said.
Commencement speaker Mark Edwards said he didn't say thank you at the time he was a New Bloomfield student, but he took the moment to say it Friday night to all his former teachers, who really "were caring friends" who helped him turn around his high school academic career.
Edwards is a New Bloomfield High School Class of 1983 graduate who recently retired from the Jefferson City Police Department with a career in law enforcement full of professional achievements, including service as the president of the Jefferson City Police Officers Association.
He imparted three bits of advice to the class of 2019.
"Never think you're better than anybody else."
"Never forget where you come from," and "always stand up for it."
Thirdly, he also told the class of 2019 to thank their parents for what they've done for them.
When parents say to their children that they're proud of them, that means their children are on the right track, but have more to do, Edwards said.
He urged the soon-to-be graduates seated in the gym to write down where they see themselves in the next 10, 15 or 20 years, and then put that paper inside their diploma to come back to and reflect on it in the future.
Edwards' further advice also included to live by choice and not chance; have self-esteem and not self-pity; and be useful but not used.
Pitzen told her classmates to live with kindness, be supportive and help each other to be resilient, and be accountable to others and themselves.
"Trust yourself, be confident in what you know," and keep good people around, she said.
She also quoted a passage from the biblical book of Jeremiah, 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
New Bloomfield High School's Class of 2019 has seven graduates who graduated with cum laude honors, with a grade point average of 3.5-3.74: Chloe R. Britton, Payton N. Schuster, Conner R. Edwards, Klayton J. Kempker, Jacob A. Lane, and Kaitlynn M. Branson.
Five graduates earned magna cum laude honors with a GPA of 3.75-3.99: Patrick Distler, Samantha J. Haas, Makaylee S. Beck, Haley R. Berhorst and Roger J. Saleny.
Three graduates earned summa cum laude honors, with a GPA of 4.0 or higher: Pitzen, Mackenzie F. Garrett and Kathryn R. Kelley.
Garrett was named salutatorian.