The graduates entered two at a time, walking down the side aisles of the gym and up the center to their seats facing the stage. The strains of "Pomp and Circumstance," played by the MHS Concert Band, and cheering friends and family provided background accompaniment for the seniors.
Principal David Steward offered an official welcome.
"This class, over the past four years, has contributed greatly to the success of Monett High School individually and collectively both in and out of the classroom," Steward said. "A sample of their successes include: a state champion debater, a National Merit finalist, a three-time state champion wrestler, a state FBLA officer, seven national speech and debate qualifiers, six national FBLA qualifiers, more than a dozen I ratings at state music festivals, 10 conference team championships, nine district championships, two state runner-up teams and one state champion team."
The class has seven graduating cum laude, 27 graduating magna cum laude and 37 graduating summa cum laude, Steward continued. A total of 48 percent of the graduates received either an honors or high honors diploma.
Steward introduced members of the Top 10 percent of the graduating class and their honors. Then he welcomed the four valedictorians, Jennifer Frazier, Anna Arnaud, Melissa Gaspar and Desirae Fowler, to take the stage.
Frazier began their joint speech by recalling past experiences shared by the class from nap time in kindergarten to shared exasperation at the cancellation of recess in sixth grade. She described the experiments teacher Heno Head unleashed in science class as part of the joy of school.
"We laughed and cried together, worked and played together, and began and finished our education at Monett together," Frazier said. "We have learned to love what really needs to be cherished . . . friendship, family, education, service and life lessons."
Arnaud continued by looking back at the "lasts" in the shared experiences from wanting to put on more paint as football season ended to "gulping the last few breaths of fun before we're thrown out into a scary new world." Arnaud said the bonds from 13 years of school together could not be broken by the passage of time.
Gaspar looked ahead, seeing plenty of potential.
"Whether you plan on creating the next great cuisine, defending our freedom, contributing to the next medical breakthrough, teaching tomorrow's leaders, managing companies large or small, or serving others in our own community, each one of our careers is vital in making this world go around," Gaspar said. "We are the future, and now it is time to step up to this challenge and show the world what we are truly made of."
Fowler offered thanks to teachers, administrators, counselors and coaches for their support. She thanked parents and family for guidance and cheers at athletic events, for love that had not failed.
"Have the courage to follow your heart and your intuition," Fowler challenged her classmates in conclusion.
Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann said he had been able to give the classmates one special gift during the year. His 6 a.m. announcements of snow days had been greeted with smiles, relief, unbridled enthusiasm and the inspiration to take time for play.
"The bad news is, with graduation, snow days are a thing of the past. At college and work, it's highly unlikely you will get a day off," Jungmann continued.
Looking at the snow days experience, Jungmann advised graduates to smile often, find a few minutes to relax during the day, be enthusiastic about everything and play hard.
"You have completed an important task," Jungmann said. "It's been a fun ride with ups and downs. I'm confident the class has the skill and will to make it all the way. I and those here are proud to call you graduates of Monett High School."
The classmates then came to the stage as their names were read by Heno Head to receive their diplomas.
Once each graduate had returned to their seat, members of Monett High's newest graduating class turned the tassels on their mortar board hats to denote their graduation, sang the school toast and tossed their hats into the air with a cheer.