It’s goodbye to friends
A cast of 97 gave De Soto its own friends' finale Saturday.
Allyssa King, one of seven seniors who spoke at De Soto High School's 84th graduation in the high school gym Saturday, told her fellow graduates the high school had been their friend for the past four years. During that time, her classmates pushed each other to excel, she said. They would have more to say to one another in the future, she predicted.
"This is not the end, but a continuation of our friendship," she said..
Lisa Lambert reflected on the friendships developed since she and 30-plus others started kindergarten at Countryside Elementary 13 years earlier.
The class had a special place in the history of the high school, Lambert said. As freshman, she her and classmates started in a school emptied with the opening of Mill Valley High School. As a consequence, the athletic teams struggled during their freshman and sophomore years. As seniors, teams rung up successes highlighted by a state runner-up finish in soccer and a leagueco-championship in girls basketball.
"We are the seniors who started the revival of De Soto High School," Lambert said.
In her speech, Callie Ann Blades invoked a far different experience than that of Lambert. She was one of those whose arrival in the community nearly tripled the size of the class from the kindergarteners Lambert remembered. She found acceptance at the school, she said, and experienced formative events as personal as her first kiss.
It was those kinds of experiences that the class members would remember in the years to come, graduate Edward Gartland said.
"The only thing we have in common is each other," he said. "What's going to stick in your mind is not the things we learned, but the places we went, the things we did, the crazy ideas we came up with."
In addition to acknowledgement of bounds, speakers also gave the class advice. Sarah Riggs quoted from Robert Frost's "Road Less Traveled" to encourage her fellow graduates to go "off roading."
"For a long time, I was one of those highway people," she said. "But I realized I wasn't happy. I was bored."
Cassie Garza quoted John Wesley, reminding the class members to "do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."
In addition to the speeches, two seniors shared their sentiments with the graduates and their families with original musical compositions. The senior ensemble performed "Remember When" written by graduate Sarah Riggs and her mother, Linda.
Later, Kody Willnauer conducted the De Soto High School band in his original instrumental composition "American Royale."
De Soto High School Principal Debbie Lynn said the piece was illustrative of the departing seniors' talent.
"I realize that this graduation ceremony will go on a little longer than usual, but after that I think you'll agree this class of seniors has a lot to share," she said.
Soon after student council president Mary Roellschen signaled the end of the ceremony with instruction for class members to move their tassels, Lynn gathered the class together for one last time for the unveiling of the class's gift to the school, a wildcat statue sculpted by art teacher Tim Mispagel.
"That was the best time ever," she told the class. "That was great fun."
Despite pangs of sadness, the graduates agreed.
"It was more fun than tears," Lambert said. She will study nursing at the University of Missouri/Kansas City on a track scholarship.
Denice Friday was equally thrilled and ready to move on to the next step in her education. She will study architecture at Kansas University.
"I anticipated this day for a very long time," she said. "I'm just very happy. It was very good.
"I'm ready to go to college."
Bryan Buser said he, too, had eagerly awaited graduation. He was ready for his next challenge, studying construction science and management at Kansas State.
"It was great while it lasted, but I'm not going to miss it," he said.
Nearby, Kyle Andrews had a wide smile on his face as he balanced his favorite cousin on his shoulder.
"I'm so excited," he said. "I'm going to miss my friends, but I'm looking forward to moving on."
Andrews said he would enroll at Johnson County Community College next fall. While he was looking ahead, his mother Bonnie Andrews was celebrating a victory over the past that the day represented. Her son graduated with his class despite missing much of the second semester of his sophomore year from injuries suffered in an automobile accident that put an abrupt end to the high school boys basketball team's season.
"This was one of our goals when he was in the hospital -- graduating with his class," the new graduate's mother said.
Thirty minutes after the ceremony, Willnauer remained exhilarated from the experience of conducting his original composition in front of a packed gymnasium.
"What a way to go out on top," he said. "It was the best performance we ever had. A standing ovation -- that was awesome."