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Graduations

Our memories are forever with us

W.P. Zizzer Class of 2022 graduates 288 seniors

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Family members, friends and community supporters filled the West Plains Civic Center arena Monday evening to watch as 288 Zizzers were recognized for rising to the challenges presented during their high school careers and succeeding en masse.

Before presenting award recognitions Principal Matthew Orchard paused to recognize the seniors’ parents, thanking them for their unwavering commitment, loyalty and support as thunderous applause erupted throughout the arena. 

Orchard remarked on the exceptional academic performance given by this year’s graduating class, noting that 12 Bright Flight scholarships were awarded to students earning 30 or higher on their ACTs, 135 seniors met every requirement necessary to qualify for A+ scholarships, and four seniors managed to not only complete their high school diplomas, but also earned associate’s degrees from Missouri State University-West Plains, to be conferred during exercises to be held Saturday at the civic center.

Two graduates, he announced, will be going on to serve their country in the United States military. He was interrupted by loud cheers and applause, in which he enthusiastically joined before concluding his list with the dozen student-athletes who have signed national letters of intent to continue their athletic and educational careers.

 

SENIOR SPEECHES

But before all of that, seniors Olivia Beard and Katy Boykin addressed their classes with heartfelt and humorous remarks, both of them quoting their class motto: “Our lives are before us, our past is behind us, but our memories are forever with us.”

As the Class of ’22 is the last class to have completed a full year of school before the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted their educational process, and the last to know what classrooms were like before they all went virtual, the two young women shared their standout memories.

Beard highlighted Friday Night Football, pep rallies, an Instagram account dedicated to bad parking at the high school — which she laughingly credited for making her a better driver — and that time freshman English teacher Tracie Joiner allowed the class to watch “Gnomeo and Juliet.” And then it all changed.

“Sophomore year’s legendary March 13th, we left for Spring Break and never came back,” she recalled. “I was not at school that day and I regret it. If I would have known it would be the last for a while, I would have done anything to go and brought donuts to celebrate.” The longest Spring Break in history swallowed up summer.

But then, in junior year, normalcy began to creep back in with her favorite memory: Prom. And in senior year, normalcy had returned in full with Beard’s highlight being a favorite teacher into whose class she walked every day.

Before concluding her speech with gratitude for the adults who helped make her high school experience valuable, Beard challenged her classmates to stay curious.

“I challenge all of us to approach life with curiosity, to not be worn down by past events, but to keep moving forward passionately and positively about what is to come.”

Boykin followed Beard with an upbeat, joke-filled address that garnered frequent laughs, beginning with her opening.

If you don’t know me, my name is Katy. I used to wave my arms around on a six-foot ladder for this band that played on Friday nights,” she quipped. “Not sure if you’ve heard of it, but the football team opened and closed for us regularly.”

She spoke to her peers of the determination they displayed by surviving “three different so-called ‘end-of-days’” and going on to do all the normal things juniors and seniors are expected to do: ACT prep, scholarship applications, give consideration to a future that was uncertain.

“Not only did we survive the ‘end of the world,’ but we thrived,” Boykin declared. “We graduated high school. If it is true that we are products of our environment, then the class of 2022 is truly made of tougher material.”

Lest the year 2020 that changed the way high school looked for this class be remembered only for the COVID-19 pandemic, Boykin reminded the audience of seven more iconic moments that occurred between 2020 and the present day, and the lessons they offered. 

Among them, she highlighted the “Great Toilet Paper Famine,” the mass panic purchasing of toilet paper and other commodities, which “taught us to never take for granted the small luxuries in life, and the confirmation of unidentified aerial phenomena by the Pentagon.

“Aka aliens,” she quipped, eliciting chuckles. “I think we all forgot about this one, but always shoot for the stars because you will certainly end up somewhere interesting.”

She also reminded her classmates that their generation almost broke the stock market, referring to the stock controversy involving GameStop stocks and the investing app Robinhood.

“Don’t forget we as a generation are a force to be reckoned with and have untapped potential,” she advised.

“We might save the world, we might not, but once we are out in it, it will never be the same,” she said at the conclusion of her speech.

 

 

AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS

School Board President Jimmy Thompson presented the first award to be given that evening, the Zizzer Distinguished Alumni award, which was given to Crockett Oaks III, a West Plains native who in 2021 began work at Missouri State University-West Plains as director of business and support services. His story will be published in an upcoming edition of the Quill.

Orchard returned to the podium to present student awards, announcing John David Edgeller is the class salutatorian, and a three-way tie resulted in three students being named valedictorian: Micah Mattsfield, Layna Roylance and Madison Rost. 

Best Citizen awards were presented to Brock Larsen and Jayna Gunter.

Larsen was recognized a second time, as Orchard announced he has been accepted to The United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and Brayden Kantola will be leaving West Plains to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard. 

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