Friends, family, staff and faculty flooded the Russellville High School gymnasium to honor seniors Friday during their graduation ceremony.
The school recognized the class of 2022 for its hard work and dedication throughout high school. Forty-nine graduates left Russellville with their diplomas after they made their walk across the stage.
Honor students include: Lydia Gilmore, Emily Goldammer, Simon Hartman, Cameron Larimore, Elizabeth Mehmert, Hannah Mehmert, Whitney Pavely, Paige Randolph, Gaven Smith and Arjay Wilson.
Twenty-one students earned scholarships: Madalyne Benne, Heidi Brennecke, Blake Burling, Ryleigh Case, Logan Cinotto, Lydia Gilmore, Bryce Hale, Simon Hartman, Cameron Larimore, Melanie Loesch, Elizabeth Mehmert, Hannah Mehmert, Roby Mehmert, Whitney Pavely, Ryan Peters, Paige Randolph, Jaylynn Roberson, Gaven Smith, Breanna Stotts, Mark Tripp and Kaden Shannon.
The ceremony recognized Shannon for his decision to serve in the United States National Guard.
Although students' journey in Russellville education came to an end, Superintendent Perry Gorrell said he is eager to see graduates succeed in their future endeavors.
"Whatever path you take from this day forward, you are now responsible for yourselves as individuals," Gorrell said in his speech.
He said there is no doubt in his mind each student has the ability to become successful in life. Gorrell emphasized to graduates they received instruction from "tremendous" staff who have not only prepared them in subject areas but prepared them for the world.
The superintendent asked graduates to take the preparation they have received through their education to make a positive impact on those around them as leaders. He closed with a quote from Mark Twain, reminding students to take risks and to succeed in everything they do.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones that you did," Gorrell recited. "So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream and discover."
In Valedictorian Pavely's speech to her class, she expressed how becoming part of Russellville schools changed her life.
"'For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,'" Pavely began. "I first heard this in a movie around 10 years ago, and it really resonated with me. I didn't know, however, how important it would become."
She said the verse carried her from a private school to Russellville schools. She said it helped her transition from eighth grade to freshman year, brought comfort during the uncertainty of the pandemic during sophomore and junior year, and "was a rock for" moving into a busy senior year.
"This verse is the reason I'm standing here today," Pavely said. "When I first moved from my elementary school to Russellville, I was very unsure. I didn't want to leave what I knew and the people I knew. ... I didn't want to trust that this was God's plan for me. Looking back, that move to Russellville in sixth grade was one of the best things that ever happened."
She explained the move introduced her to many new opportunities, impactful teachers and lifelong friendships.
As time at Russellville High School comes to an end, Pavley said there is a feeling of uncertainty. Transitioning out of high school can be difficult, as many may feel unsure about what they should do moving forward. However, she said God will continue to guide the class of 2022 everywhere they go and everything they do.
"We all have a path that we've been on, and I don't think it's a coincidence that they all crossed here at Russellville High School," Pavley told her classmates. "I believe that God brought all of us together for a reason."
Principal David Volkart congratulated the class by recounting the time he has shared with graduates since his first year at Russellville schools. He said he encountered them during their first year in middle school, however, it wouldn't be until his first year as principal and their first year as freshmen that their journey together would really begin.
He explained that through ninth grade, and three-fourths of 10th grade, circumstances were fairly normal. Although, it wasn't long until the effects of COVID-19 were felt by the school and its students. While the pandemic has left the last four years with many ups and downs, it is also a part of the journey they experienced together.
Volkart said this past year has felt more like a normal school year, which he is extremely grateful for. Especially as graduates enter into college, technical school, the military and the workforce. Although before students have a chance to leave Russellville High School, he left them with three points of advice for them to use in the future.
Number one is to remember things are never as good as they seem or as bad as they seem. Try to always keep things in perspective; number two is to remember "right is right." Always striving to do the right thing and it truly will work out; and number three is to remember common sense is not so common but it is always useful.
"Our school journey started seven years ago and today it comes to an end," Volkart said. "I've enjoyed seeing you all transform from boys and girls into young men and women."