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story.lead_photo.caption The 2019 Latham eighth-graders requested their former teacher Erin Butler speak at their commencement May 7, 2019. From left: Jennifer Sandidge, Wiley Roush, Alexa Barrett, Butler, Carly Messerli, Cortnee Burnett and Austin Bonecutter. Photo by Danisha Hogue / California Democrat.

"Congratulations," Erin Butler said. "You, like gas, have passed."

Butler gave the commencement address May 7 at Latham R-5 School eighth-grade ceremony.

Alexa Barrett, Austin Bonecutter, Cortnee Burnett, Carley Messerli, Wiley Roush and Jennifer Sandidge will all leave the K-8 district May 15.

The speech was loaded with Disney references to relate to the students as she spoke about choices.

She instructed the group to close their eyes and imagine themselves over the next 10 years.

"You can choose to be kind to the person that everybody is being mean to — or not," Butler said.

The former fifth- and sixth-grade teacher of the graduates reminded them mistakes will be made, but will help them grow.

"Dreams will grow and change as you do," Butler said. "So don't worry about changing your mind."

The students all left with smiles on their faces. A few tears were shed by parents and Jennifer Fletcher, principal/superintendent.

During the valedictorian speech by Bonecutter, voted most likely to not stop talking by the seventh-grade class, said their long journey together was full of memories. Many of the graduates have been in school together since kindergarten.

In the fall, Roush, Sandidge and Burnett will attend Tipton High School. Bonecutter, Messerli and Barrett will attend California High School.

The kindergarten ceremony preceded the eighth-graders Tuesday evening. After the students presented their parents with flowers and received their awards, they laughed at the remembrance video that played.

William Dicus, Cale Hill, Dane Hill, Rylee Higgins and Athena Prior will all proceed to the first grade at Latham.

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