And they’re off
De Soto High School’s class of 2005 challenged to find vision
Stephanie Rhodes, Clarissa Kopp and Jeryka Lobner were all smiles posing for a group photo Saturday minutes after receiving diplomas as part of De Soto High School's 85th graduating class.
Their graduation day added to their growing awareness that distance would soon be imposed on their friendship when they leave for three different schools in the fall. Lobner is going to Pittsburg State to study sports medicine. Kopp is headed to Allen County Community College on a volleyball scholarship, and Rhodes will attend Baker University in Baldwin to study nursing.
"We're best friends; we have e-mail," Lobner said as she and Rhodes argued about who could recruit Kopp after she finishes at Allen County.
In a speech to her 88 classmates as senior class president, Rhodes acknowledged the day was one of transition.
"We can close one chapter today," she said. "It's time to start making your own history. Start with today."
Rhodes was one of six seniors who addressed their classmates and a full house of family, friends and well-wishers at Saturday's commencement. The other five student speakers -- Rebecca Davis, Adam Faircloth, Katie James, Jacob Longaker and Melissa Roberts -- were the class' top academic achievers, finishing their four years with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average
James shared stories on her classmates, from Brandon Hurt needing the Heimlich maneuver after swallowing a fireball to Adam Wilcox doing a cannonball in a steeplechase race, concluding with, "I'll always remember De Soto High School."
Those stories and friends were central to their high school experience, Roberts said in her speech. She witnessed her classmates change in the last four years, observing some grow more outspoken while others became more introspective, she said.
The development of each graduate was tied to the class as a whole, Roberts said.
"Without any one person, our experience would have changed," she said.
Much had changed since he entered kindergarten in De Soto when naptime was the most-hated time of the day, Faircloth said. He and his busy teenage classmates would take any opportunity to nap in their senior years. Academic demands had also increased as the class moved from kindergarten show-and-tell to senior projects, he said.
"In show-and-tell, it didn't matter what kind of dog you had as long as you had one," he said. "As a senior, you better have a Great Dane."
The seriousness with which the class regarded academics could be seen in the enthusiasm they gave to selecting courses for the semester ahead, Longaker said. Encouraged by the school and district, the students challenged themselves by signing up for slates of rigorous coursework, he said.
Longaker said this year's administration at the school returned the focus to academics, making college credit classes available for students at the school next year.
"I'm jealous I was never afforded an opportunity to take advanced placement courses," he said.
Their experiences and studies prepared the students for new challenges, Davis said.
"Whether or not we succeed in life is up to us, but a life spent fighting for a good cause is a good step," she said.
In the years ahead, the students needed to identify their vision and pursue it passionately, the high school's athletic director Roy Hawley said in his humor-laced keynote address. In accordance with school tradition, the seniors selected a member of the school faculty as keynote speaker.
"Without vision, you are just taking up space," Hawley said. "Don't worry if you don't know what your vision is. You'll know when you find it."
Not all the seniors are finished with De Soto High School. As he met with friends and family after the commencement, Gary Kearns said he would be among the De Soto High School Madrigals going next month to New York City to sing at Carnegie Hall.
Ashley Henney, who will start Kansas University in the fall with a goal of becoming a pharmacist, said it was time to move on.
"It's been a good ride," she said. "I'll miss classes where I know everybody."