Principal David Steward told the crowd that 24 graduates received honors diplomas, having earned credits from upper level courses above the number needed to graduate. Sixty graduates had specific honors with 28 graduating summa cum laude, 22 at the magna cum laude level, and 10 achieving cum laude status.
Introducing the students, Steward said families could view the graduates' achievement with pride "and a great sense of relief." Each of the top 10 percent of the class was asked to rise, along with their parents, as Steward read their specific accomplishments and college plans.
Valedictorian Alysia Phelps opened her address thanking family, friends and teachers for bringing her and her classmates to the landmark point of graduation.
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us," Phelps said, in quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson. She used the quote as a springboard into reminiscing about shared experiences in school.
"So, as we walk across this stage tonight, don't let those tears be ones of sadness but ones of remembrance and joy, because even if we might not all know where we're going in life or what we want to do yet, the future is ours for the taking," Phelps said. "We've turned into individuals, people with character, and have the skills to carry on. Having entered to learn, we must now leave to succeed."
Salutatorian Erin Daugherty reflected back to elementary school in her speech. Making dinosaurs in second grade, the insecurity of a middle school dance, and high school events, such as homecoming parades and individual competitive performances all added confidence with the learning experiences.
"I learned just as much from life lessons as I did from any book," Daugherty said. "I am sure most of you would agree that we have all changed throughout the course of our high school years, and hopefully it has all been for the better."
Daugherty closed with Robert Frost's poem, learned in Debbie Berger's sixth grade English class. She urged her classmates to take "the road less traveled," thanked them for contributing to her life and urged them to trust God as they go forward.
Before awarding the diplomas, Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann offered comments. Jungmann acknowledged his special connection with this group of students, thanking them for breaking him in during his first year as middle school principal.
"Here I am, ready to help break you out," Jungmann said.
Jungmann recalled graduation speeches often focus on the anxiety and stress of the "real world," but he felt the ordinary message did not apply to this class.
"The Class of 2009 has written a new definition of high achievement that will be difficult to surpass," Jungmann said. From academics to the athletic field, Jungmann said the class offered "a shining example of hard work leading to success."
In releasing the class, Jungmann offered two phrases. The first was: "Well done." Even in one of the school's largest graduating classes, achievement was a standard reflected in leadership, the superintendent said.
Secondly, Jungmann said, "You're ready." The energy and spirit shown by the graduates, their Cub Spirit at games, a desire to not accept the status quo reflected "passion with a purpose" and only the beginning of the potential within.
"Thank you for your contribution to Monett High School. Our loss is the world's gain," Jungmann said.
With that, the graduates came forward and received diplomas as retired teacher Heno Head read their names. School Board President David Beckett took turns with fellow board members in presenting the diplomas to the student as the crowd cheered.
Once the graduates had returned to their seats, they locked arms and sang the school toast as the band under Director Danika White played. Then the graduates threw their purple colored mortar board hats into the air with a shout. Gathering their hats up again, the graduates headed into the commons to exchange good-byes and accept congratulations from family and friends.