Cowbells, whistles and applause filled the Cole R-1 Russellville High School gymnasium Saturday night.
The graduating class of 2019 turned their tassels, adding 48 alumni to the district.
“To graduate means to come to the end,” Superintendent Perry Gorrell said. “But these ceremonies are often a commencement — a commencement which means to begin.”
All of the students have a plan for their future. Several will enter the workforce and two will serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The majority of the students plan to attend college. Thirty five students received the A+ Scholarship, a statewide program that allows graduates to attend participating public or private schools for two years tuition free.
Sidney Mehrhoff said she is scared to leave high school and pay for college.
“I’m really scared,” Mehrhoff said. “Now I’ll have to do everything by myself and just make a living.”
Valedictorian Anna Porter has been with the district since kindergarten. Her parents, Mona and Travis, said their daughter has always studied hard. They were shocked, however, to hear she was graduating top of her class.
“She’s not much into sports,” Mona said. “She’s a bookworm.”
Anna confirmed in her speech she felt a competitive nature in academic achievement with her older brother Jamie, a Russellville alum.
“Growing up, I lived in the shadow of my perfect older brother, Jamie,” Anna said. “I wanted to be better than him at something. If you would have told me when I was a freshman that I would be giving a speech at graduation, I would probably laugh and then start to cry.”
High School Principal David Volkart reminded the group life is about choices.
“Treat others the way you would like to be treated,” Volkart said. “Right now, you have endless possibilities. Don’t limit those possibilities because you treated someone poorly.”
His remaining advice was to do the right thing and be the best they could be.
After receiving their diplomas, the students gifted their loved ones in the audience with a blue-tipped white rose.
The students tossed their caps in celebration after class President Ethan Huff guided his peers to move their tassels to the left.
“From this day forward, it is up to you to determine the story that will be wrote,” Gorrell said.