"There are a lot of independent, driven students," Solensky said. "Not too many are undecided on their college plans. They have been a fun, very well behaved, enjoyable group."
The valedictorian, Jacob Fair, emerged from the class with a 4.0 grade point average, having always earned all A's. Emma Verstraete and Isaac Weber scored high enough on the ACT college entrance exams to earn Bright Flight scholarships, worth $1,700 a year to attend a state university.
Solensky said a significant number of the graduating class are taking advantage of A+ benefits to attend Crowder College and Ozarks Technical College for two years. As a new dynamic this year, more are staying in Monett to take classes at the new Drury University campus.
About an equal number are going to Missouri State University in Springfield and Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Solensky said. As has been the trend in recent years, several graduates have plans to attend the University of Arkansas and a couple are headed to the University of Missouri in Columbia.
Carter Huffmaster plans to travel the farthest of his classmates, heading to Arizona State University. Kale Turner has been accepted into the medical program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Some graduates of the Southwest Area Career Center's culinary arts program will head to culinary school.
Students start using Missouri Connections in eighth grade, a program that shows what courses to take for a specific career. The program starts students thinking about life after high school, giving them a reference point to check as their interests develop. Solensky said the approach provides goals and helps students find direction.
The class is the first to have personal laptops from the One to the World initiative. Solensky said the classmates have provided her with "wonderful feedback" on having the devices. The laptops have been tools for communicating, organizing, contacting teachers and working together.
"The students are even making movies with them," Solensky said. "The kids are teaching me how to use them. I think it's wonderful. What used to be our computer lab at the high school is now the help and technology center where you go to get questions answered."
Part of the class has been active in the Youth Empowerment Project, contributing to their community. Solensky said when she and fellow counselors Princess Fox and Karen Brosi volunteered for two weeks in Joplin after the May 22, 2011, tornado, they saw a number of Monett students helping out with the clean-up.
Colleges continued to heavily recruit Monett's top students over the past year, Solensky said. Over 50 schools send representatives to College Night in October. Drury University has had a stronger presence around the community in the past year, Solensky said, which has helped more students think about college.
The strong offering of advanced placement (AP) classes, offering dual high school and college credits, increased college interest for Monett students. Solensky said Monett has an average of eight AP credits available annually. Offerings will be expanding, with Matt Anderson teaching dual credit college algebra and Ivy Nelson introducing dual credit theater arts. Some students take on-line college credit classes during the day through Drury University.
During the honors assembly on Monday night, scholarships for the graduates were announced.
"The Monett community has always been so supportive," Solensky said. "Every year I'm amazed at the businesses and families that have established local scholarships. We're very lucky to have them."
New this year is the Berniece Medlin Memorial Scholarship. Principal David Steward has offered the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals Scholarship, available in Monett about once every five years. A first this year is a scholarship from the Firefighters of Missouri.
Solensky told the graduates at the honors assembly that she was proud of them and they were deserving of the scholarships. She urged them to appreciate the donors and take the necessary steps to keep the scholarships that can be renewed in subsequent semesters.
"They've been a good group," Solensky said. "I'll miss them, that's for sure."