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story.lead_photo.caption South Callaway High School salutatorian Somer Jacobs spoke during the school's graduation ceremony Saturday in Mokane. Photo by Olivia Brandt/Courtesy of South Callaway High School

South Callaway High School celebrated its class of 2020 graduates Saturday evening during a socially distant ceremony.

"Welcome to the 2020 graduation ceremonies at South Callaway High School — I wasn't sure we were ever going to get here this year," Superintendent Kevin Hillman said.

The ceremony was conducted outside on the South Callaway High School football field for a limited audience and livestreamed online.

Fifty-six graduating seniors were seated at 6-foot intervals. Last year, South Callaway had 61 graduates.

"The class of 2020 was born during unprecedented times, an indication that only we would have the strength to successfully overcome any challenges or obstacles," valedictorian Samantha Thieret said.

Hillman called the class of 2020 "the senior class that's had to endure the most."

"This virus may have put a negative twist on your senior year, canceled your prom and delayed your graduation and canceled your all-night party, but it cannot and it will not steal your future," Principal Heather Helsel said.

Salutatorian Somer Jacobs began her remarks with a poem by Maya Angelou, "When I Think of Death."

"As a student of the class of 2020, I can say for all of us that this year has gone anything but according to plan — we'd been faced with death and darkness, thrown into a world of violence and hate, but we pushed through to be here today," Jacobs said. "Hope and love have been some of the driving forces behind our persistence to finish off our senior year together."

This year was the first year the school has recognized cum laude honors based on grade point average and ACT scores. Twelve percent of the graduates wore either gold, silver or white tassels.

Twenty graduates were members of the National Honor Society.

Next year, 68 percent of the graduates will continue their education at a two- or four-year college.

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