Roughly 1,000 graduates from Kearney, Liberty and Liberty North high schools received their high school diplomas during three graduation ceremonies Sunday, May 19.
In Kearney, roughly 270 seniors made up students in attendance at this year’s graduation venue, the new high school gymnasium at 715 E. 19th St. During the event, Kearney High School Principal Dave Schwarzenbach welcomed parents, guardians and loved ones of graduates and asked them to stand for a round of applause.
“We share in your success as we also played a role in their success,” he said, gesturing to the seniors. “I also want to thank the district staff, too.”
Superintendent Bill Nicely relayed statistics about the senior class that included the average GPA was 3.33; 1,674 dual college credits were earned; 68% of the class held down jobs while going to school; 76% will attend a two-year or four-year school following graduation and $3.84 million in scholarships were offered to the seniors.
Senior Serra Hanrahan was voted by her peers to offer the senior address. She started her speech by quoting Mark Twain: “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why.”
She challenged her fellow graduates to leave an impact on the world.
“It might be college, the military or a trade program to start, but we have to acknowledge the future,” she said. “It’s a new beginning. We are starting the process for our why.”
Life waits for no one, Hanrahan said.
“... Cherish this moment right now. We will no longer be opening lockers. I’m going to ask something unorthodox. Please hold hands with your neighbor. While this seems uncommon, we will always have this one thing in common. Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog. Now it’s our sole purpose to find your why.”
Also on Sunday, parents, families and friends filled the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence for Liberty and Liberty North’s graduation ceremonies.
Of 448 Liberty High School graduates, 42 had 4.0 GPAs. Four graduates who made an impact throughout high school were invited to address their peers.
“I’ve been thinking about the last four years a lot lately,” Student Council President Kristen Pettibon said. “Our freshman year, our first days as Blue Jays, I remember I felt really uncomfortable. The building was new, we didn’t know who our teachers were and suddenly half of our classmates were strangers. ... That is a big difference from our senior year. This year we showed all the underclassmen where there classes were if they were confused. We got really close with those teachers we once didn’t know, we gained a lot more pride as Blue Jays.”
Sentiments expressed by each speaker conveyed their appreciation for the relationships they built and opportunities they experienced in high school. Graduates also discussed what they will take with them moving forward.
“One day way back in 2015, during passing period, I was in the hallway being loud and goofy,” graduate Weston Brown said. “A senior in front of me turned around, rolled her eyes and said, ‘Oh my gosh, you are so extra.’”
Brown said he looked up “extra” on UrbanDictionary.com, finding it means over the top, excessive or too much.
“I am the most extra person you will ever meet,” he said. “I began to look for extraness around me and see if I could find some meaning in it. And ultimately I realized the best way to get someone to act in an extra fashion is to get them talking about or doing something they are passionate about. I came to a realization, every one of us has an extra. Everyone has something they are so passionate about even their parents don’t want to hear about it.”
Brown encouraged his peers to find their extra and to live life doing what they are passionate about.
At the Liberty North ceremony, retiring Principal Marty Jacobs said the class of 2019 impressed him. The principal said he has no doubt the class of 2019 were fully capable of making good decisions and ready for what lies ahead.
While offering praise to the students he said made him proud, the students also doted on Jacobs, giving recognition to his retirement and appreciation for what he has offered them over the years.
“This man has never ceased to amaze me in his dedication to our school, staff and students,” graduate speaker Anthony Garcia said. “Dr. Jacobs, your legacy will always be a huge part of the Liberty community and you will be greatly missed. I speak on behalf of the entire class of 2019 when I say thank you very much for all that you have done.”
Student Council President Morgan Neal also thanked Jacobs for his dedication and support over the years.
As her speech continued, Neal she was ready to move past high school.
”A month ago I realized I had senioritis bad, like, really bad,” Neal said. “If you don’t know, senioritis is a supposed affliction of students in their final year of high school or college. ... According to Urban Dictionary, a reliable source, senioritis is a crippling disease that strikes high school seniors. Symptoms include laziness, an over excessive wearing of track pants, old athletic shirts, athletic shorts, sweatpants and sweatshirts and also features a lack of studying, repeated absences and generally dismissive attitude.”“Senioritis is not a lack of desire or ability, but a symptom of your readiness for the future. We are craving the future so much that sometimes it is all we can think about. ... Graduates, if you have doubt clouding your mind, it is OK. I do too. But I want you to know you are more than ready to handle what life throws at you next.”