JAMESTOWN -- Jamestown graduates celebrated more than the end of their high school journeys Sunday.
They also celebrated the people who made their graduations possible -- especially their mothers.
Graduates and mothers were in the spotlight Sunday as 21 Jamestown C-I High School seniors walked across the stage to accept their diplomas. Brienna Crider, the 2023 class salutatorian, remarked on how mothers made the accomplishments possible for many.
Crider, who had the second-highest grade-point average (GPA) in the class, said the "impressive feat" of graduation didn't come without its challenges. The class endured a different science teacher every year, she said, along with learning virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"All factors combined, though, we have endured some pretty challenging obstacles, but one thing never changed -- the support from our moms," Crider said. "As we all know, or at least hopefully, today is Mother's Day. While we dressed up all pretty in our caps and gowns, our moms were double-checking us every step of the way to make sure we wouldn't look stupid in one of the biggest days of our lives. After all, they are not getting bad pictures."
She recalled her first day of school, when she didn't want to get on the school bus. Her mom placed her on the bus, reassuring her everything would be OK.
"Ever since then, our mothers have been always two steps behind, making sure we don't trip or, for some of us, sprint in the wrong direction," Crider said. "They have been incessantly checking on grade cards, reminding us of our deadlines, signing an ungodly amount of permission slips and photographing every single achievement, no matter how small or insignificant. I think I speak for most of us when I say that without our moms, we would not have made it here today."
Olivia Oerly and Kylee Russell, the class's two valedictorians, tied for the highest GPA in the class.
In her speech, Oerly focused on the tight-knit nature of the class.
"We know each other by name and we share a bond that extends beyond the classroom," she said. "We've grown up, laughed, cried, faced our fears and challenges together, and now we stand here ready to take on the world. We have became more than just classmates, we have become a family."
Even through disagreements and many challenges, Oerly said, the class put aside its differences to enjoy its time together and look out for each other. For instance, she said some members stayed up in the middle of the night to kill cockroaches in their hotel room during the class's trip to Tampa.
"No matter the challenge, we have supported each other through thick and thin," Oerly said. "And that's what makes our class so special."
She ended the speech by saying the bonds formed throughout the past years will outlast the class's time at the school, as its members will still have each other. Oerly added that teachers and parents also made a difference, alongside other members of her class.
With her speech, Russell touched on how far the class has come in 13 years.
"All we ever wanted was to grow up," she said. "... To be older, taller and wiser, old enough to drive on our own, tall enough to ride the roller coasters, smart enough to finally get our hands on that diploma. We wanted to grow up. We grew up anxiously waiting for the bell to ring at the end of each day, waiting for the day we'd never have to read the antagonizing words of Shakespeare ever again. ... We waited for the day we'll get to walk out those front doors and never come back."
Russell thanked the various teachers that helped the class along the way, and said the class transformed throughout the years. However, she said, the transformations, both in the class and the world itself, distracted the class from witnessing its growth.
"What we didn't realize was how fast we were growing up, and somehow the past 13 years have flown by," Russell said. "Years of waiting for this very moment turned into months, months turned into weeks, weeks turned into days, days that have now come to an end. We grew up dreaming about the day we'd get to go off on our next adventure, joking about how we just couldn't wait for graduation in order to explore the world. That day has finally come, today's the day we take our first steps down diverging paths."
While members of the class will go their own ways, Russell said each one will still have memories of the past 13 years in Jamestown schools.
Following Russell's speech, Jamestown C-I Superintendent Gretchen Guitard listed the graduates' plans following graduation.
Landen Allen plans to attend Iron Eagle Welding Academy, Stockton, to earn a welding certification.
Emma Baepler plans to attend the University of Missouri-Columbia to major in agricultural education.
Kendall Borts plans to attend the State Technical College of Missouri, Linn, to major in agribusiness.
Alex Brown plans to attend State Technical College of Missouri to major in computer networking and cybersecurity.
Riley Buckley plans to enter the workforce at Cedar Creek Dirt Works.
Avery Coffelt plans to enter the workforce at Taos Construction.
Crider plans to attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City to major in sociology.
Skyler Duncan plans to attend State Fair Community College, Sedalia, to receive an associate degree in teaching.
Shayne Harlan plans to attend a community college, and is currently undecided on a major.
Leon Lara plans to attend a technical school to major in computer programming to develop video games.
Nathan Mettenburg plans to enter the workforce at Peace Valley Farms and Lawn Care.
Carter Monroe plans to attend Moberly Area Community College to study accounting.
Oerly plans to attend Moberly Area Community College to study biology.
Audrie Pritchard is undecided on her future plans.
Russell plans to attend the University of Missouri-Columbia to major in health science.
James Scheperle is undecided on his future plans.
Evan Snyder plans to attend State Technical College of Missouri for heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Myah Squires is undecided on her future plans.
Annabelle Sumner plans to attend Drury University, Springfield, to study biochemistry and neuroscience.
Diego Vasquez plans to attend State Technical College of Missouri for civil construction technology.
Dalton Woods plans to enter the workforce at JC Mattress and Furniture Showrooms.
After the class's future plans were read, Jamestown C-I Board of Education President Shannen Imsland presented the graduates with their diplomas. Seniors were then given flowers to present to their parents before the traditional turning of the tassel from right to left on the graduates' mortarboards.
Finally, the moment they long dreamed of arrived as the graduates exited the school, starting on their diverging paths with the memories they made over the previous years.