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Graduates overcome pandemic to shine

Staff writer

D’myia Ayiana Cox didn’t need to worry Saturday about whether her family supported her.

They literally wore their support on their chests at her graduation from Hillsboro High School.

After all the pomp and circumstance inside Shari Flaming Center for the Arts at Tabor College, D’myia’s family and friends gathered around her wearing white short-sleeved T-shirts emblazoned with her first name in burgundy cursive, the word “GRADUATE” in block capital letters, and the year.

Everyone, including D’Myia, was all smiles.

D’Myia graduated with high honors. She also was a star athlete — a three-year letter winner and two-time state qualifier in track and field as well as a member of the state champion volleyball team. She also was a cheerleader for three years.

She will study elementary education at Tabor College, where she also will participate in track and field and cheer.

She was one of 42 students who walked across the stage to receive diplomas in front of a packed crowd filled with cell phones recording the ceremony.

“Oh, goodness,” class president Kori Arnold said, welcoming everyone. “Thank you for all of your support for everything we’ve done.”

One of seven valedictorians, all of whom had 4.0 GPAs, Arnold foreshadowed a common refrain among the group: It’s true that four years can pass by more quickly than you realize.

“If you were stressing about whether or not you would make it, you can relax now,” Kori told her fellow students.

Then came time for a musical reminder by vocal ensemble Spirit-N-Celebration, which performed “Season of Love” from the musical “Rent.”

It speaks of the 525,600 minutes that tick off in a year. Though interrupted by a pandemic, those graduating Saturday spent tens of thousands of minutes in Hillboro schools.

“It seems like yesterday we were all freshmen,” scared to talk to upperclassmen, salutatorian Tanner Plett said later in the ceremony.

Together, they celebrated state championships, appearances at national competitions, highs, lows, and the mundane.

“I can remember when you came over from the elementary school,” said superintendent Clint Corby, chosen by the 2023 class as graduation speaker.

When preparing for his speech, Corby tried to remember his own graduation ceremonies.

He thought back to high school: nothing. Undergraduate: nothing. Graduate school: “If only I had gone,” he said, eliciting laughter from the audience.

He implored graduates to “always give 100% — unless you’re giving blood, then give 8%. Eight percent is good.”

Corby congratulated the class for a combined $900,000 in scholarships, eclipsing all other classes.

He summed up by giving three pieces of advice:

  • You’re the only one who gets to decide whether you have a good day.
  • Success is up to you.
  • Don’t forget to laugh.

Then, an “I love you.”

The following are excerpts from speeches made by each valedictorian in the order they were made. Also noted are the colleges the students plan to attend.

Karley Loewen, Washburn University:

“Learning is absorbing information and growing academically.

“We have a responsibility moving forward to keep investing in a way that brings honor to all those who have helped us along this journey.”

Katie Rempel, Wichita State University:

Katie noted that COVID-19 cut short their freshman year, leaving students uncertain about their future.

“We were forced to adapt to a new normal each year of high school. Freshmen, we were learning remotely. Sophomore, excited to get back to in-person learning only to find out that half-days aren’t as not as fun as they sound.

“Junior year was a little closer to normal except for having to quarantine every once in a while.

“It was not the most ideal way to go through high school, but we are very grateful for the lessons learned from the challenges we faced.”

Kori Arnold, Kansas Wesleyan University:

She hit some fun highlights: a powder puff football game, countless trips to Rhubarb Market and a color run as well as some inside jokes.

“Our class also managed to bring some new things to Hillsboro High School such as the start of Trojan TV and the girls swim team. This is something that we hope will continue on in the years to come.”

Mackenna Reed, Tabor College:

“Our accomplishments varied far and wide throughout this class,” she said, alluding to a state volleyball title, three boys basketball titles, and “countless choral and artistic awards.”

“At the end of the day, we hold onto the relationships that were developed through these activities, and we are thankful for the guidance that was provided by teachers, advisers and mentors.”

Christopher Bibens, Kansas State University at Salina:

Christopher thanked teachers, saying they had “not only taught us in the classroom but also encouraged us to learn things that will carry over to the rest of our lives. They have taught us to use our creativity by providing opportunities to create projects that we had free rein on.”

Ainsley Duell, undecided:

“As you know, two very special teachers are moving on to a new chapter as well.

“Mr. Knoll taught us that being a good American starts with being on time to class. We’ve also enjoyed Joke of the Day, Your Chance to Win, selfies and teaching him to love Taylor Swift.

“Mrs. Whisenhunt taught us to take every opportunity to celebrate all of the little things. She has a way of making everyone feel included and making every moment feel special. You both will be greatly missed.”

Keeley Brewer, Tabor College:

“We want to thank you for all the time spent traveling to support us in our different activities, encouraging us during the stressful nights of homework, and celebrating even our smallest victories throughout these years. For this, we are forever grateful.”

Last modified May 17, 2023

 

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