"We've finally made it," said valedictorian Haley Cline. "Congratulations not only to us for achieving excellence in academics and in athletics, but also congratulations to our teachers. You no longer have to worry about flying objects coming across the room or us trying to convince you to get out of a test."
Cline thanked parents for their support, saying the success of her class was a reflection of the freedom to dare and courage to excel instilled by their families.
"We stand, as if before a row of thousands of doors, each door different from another, each potent with opportunities for every one of us," Cline said. "We must try at these doors, opening them to look at what lies within."
Salutatorian Ryan Noack had come to Verona as a resident at the Group Residential Individualized Program (GRIP) home and found success in the community. In his speech, Noack said he could have left at the end of his junior year, but chose to stay because of the friendships he gained.
"We're all destined for greatness, but it's our choice to become great," Noack said. "I know where I'm heading, but I'm asking you if you will come with me down the road of success and go down in history as a great person who lived their life to the fullest, with no regrets, and change this world."
Retired teacher Karen Remington, who taught math for 27 years at Verona, returned to give the graduation address. Remington said the view from the top of the hill provided a metaphor for the school experience. She said the education received in Verona stood in inverse proportion to the size of the town.
Remington offered advice as the graduates prepared to move into the world. Her observations included:
* "Be good to others, share."
* "Keep a positive attitude. Choosing optimism along the way will make you healthy."
* "Be honest with yourself."
* "Hold yourself accountable. Be in control of what you do and say."
In conclusion, Remington quoted Abraham Lincoln, who said, "It's not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years."
As her speech ended, Remington walked down the row of seniors facing the stage, giving them each a hug.
Classmates distributed flowers to special members of the audience during a break, then gathered to accept diplomas. Principal Terry Winton read their names as the graduates cross the stage, receiving their diplomas from members of the R-7 Board of Education.
After turning the tassels on their hats, the graduates left the gym to the song, "It's A New Day" by Will.I.Am, returning to throw their hats into the air and greet friends, family and well-wishers who packed the Verona gym for the occasion.