After the graduates wearing black robes marched in to the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance," played by the Purdy Band, graduates Shelby Scott and Brooke Swadley gave the greeting. They recalled funny moments about the faculty and staff, setting a light mood for the festive occasion.
Valedictorian Rebecca Neill recalled the Bible verse about "the blind leading the blind," commenting high school had been like that. She cited a survey of college students giving advice to incoming freshmen as producing equally silly guidance. In the future, Neill said, graduates would need to take greater care in where they got advice.
A favorite class video has been the YouTube clip, "Charlie Bit Me," where a little boy, tormented by his older brother sticking a finger in his mouth, bites back. Figuring class members received around 250 rejection letters during the past year, Neill demonstrated a more calculating response by reading a letter rejecting the rejection.
"If you don't take the bad stuff in life with a sense of humor, it won't be fun," Neill said. "Don't try to go it alone. When you build your foundation on the one who founded you, you can't go wrong."
Salutatorian Nicole Terry calculated she and her classmates spent 15,470 hours in class over their 13 years in school. By the time they reached middle school, their worries centered on getting to class on time and being able to work the lockers. Suddenly, in high school, everything hit a milestone, and soon it was the first day, the last test, the last day and graduation.
"As unappreciative as we sometimes were, for the most part these have been good years, and it is now time to leave behind this routine we have fallen into and know so well," Terry said. "But have courage, because tonight is not just an ending, it is also a beginning."
Neill saw her class as full of potential with many paths ahead. She warned against discouragement and encouraged her classmates to pursue their dreams.
"The best path is not always the one that leads to wealth and fame, or the fulfillment of someone else's wants or desires," Terry said. "Your best path will lead you to happiness and can taken by working hard at something you enjoy and at which you excel. Discover what you truly want to do and then pursue it with all the drive you have. Don't forget your dreams along the way."
Superintendent Jerry Lingo introduced math teacher Luanne Qualls as the guest speaker. Before going back to college at age 35 to become a teacher, Qualls worked as a caseworker for the Missouri Division of Family Services and the Division of Employment Security. She taught at the high school and college level before coming to Purdy 12 years ago.
Qualls said most of the graduates had been her students at one point. She recalled her first impression of the Purdy district had come from the students and she was intrigued.
"This is absolutely the best school district in the country," Qualls said. "You have the best kids in the country. You need to support them."
Pursuing dreams is more important than chasing high salaries, Qualls continued.
"We need farmers, teachers, waitresses, cooks and salesmen. Every job you want has honor in it," Qualls said.
Speaking to the patrons, Qualls concluded, "Please keep supporting the school district. And keep producing these kinds of kids. 'Cause they're worth it."
Principal Robert Vice introduced the class, and one by one, the graduates crossed the stage and received a diploma, presented by Randy Henderson, board president.
Following the slide show of photos of the graduates, Graduates Madeline Tate and Colten Coy provided a summary following a slide show of photos of the seniors. Tate and Coy noted that in a class of 54 students, 31 percent had competed on the state level, 63 percent participated in regional events and 91 percent at the conference level. A total of 93 percent planned to go on to college or technical school.
Coy displayed a glass of water and said the graduates would view it as half full, not half empty. "I believe you will continue filling your glass until it overflows," he added.