Joplin High School celebrates 137th graduating class

May 21—Students, parents and school officials packed Kaminsky Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon to celebrate the graduation of 495 seniors.

It was the 137th graduating class of Joplin High School, said departing Principal Steve Gilbreth.

"We appreciate your attendance as this is a day to remember for our graduates and their families," Gilbreth told the audience before introducing school board members and the district's administrators and high school staff.

The principal told the class of 2023 that it has already accomplished many milestones in life, such as the first day of school, learning to read, turning 16 and getting a driver's license, and graduating from high school.

"You are leaving here today looking for your next great adventure," Gilbreth said.

Whatever path a student has chosen, whether it's college or trade school, the military, a job or yet to decide the next step, "you will never regret giving it everything you've got and doing your best. And No. 2, you'll never regret being kind," he told them.

Gilbreth turned the podium over to Wyatt Hensley, who as senior class president was following school tradition to give opening remarks.

"He's retiring this year. I guess he just wanted to go out with the best," Hensley said of the principal, who earlier announced retirement after 26 years with the district.

The class of 2023 saw a lot of difficulties through its school years.

They were in kindergarten when the 2011 tornado hit Joplin, destroying nearly a third of the city, including many school buildings. In-school sessions were cut short when the students were freshmen because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students had to shift to online classes for a time until the pandemic diminished enough to reopen schools.

"However, with the support of family and friends, hard work and determination, we were able to persevere and overcome those challenges. Even though the challenges were hard, to say the least, they cannot overshadow the amazing times we had here," Hensley said.

He also told his classmates to remember the senior class motto, a quote from Michael Josephson, the founder of the Institute of Ethics nonprofit: "Take pride in how far you've come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don't forget to enjoy the journey."

Other student speakers for the class were Jensen Vowels, Emma Watts, Jeana Compton and Isabella Yust, who told the class: "We did it. Our best is yet to come."

Senior class Principal Kaci Dorton said the class achieved over $1 million in scholarships; the Constitution team won honors at the state level; 89 students completed industry-level certifications that provide the opportunity to go straight into jobs with high pay; seven earned associate degrees; and there were achievements in arts, athletics and more. The students also have given back to the community by organizing and being involved in events, Dorton said.

Superintendent Kerry Sachetta congratulated the students, their parents and families. He thanked them and those in the schools for their assistance during the students' education journey.

"With over 1,300 employees and the community behind you, we have supported you seniors with high interest and special care because in every community we all know our youth are our future. And you have been very important to us and you always will be," the superintendent said.

He also urged them to stay focused on their goals. "Remember to use the tools your teachers and parents have given to you to make the best choices you can," he said. "And believe me, there will be difficult decisions all along the way."

Sachetta also advised the students to always treat people with dignity. "To do that, you must respect yourself first," he said. "Be responsible and accountable to yourself, your family name, your state and your country. Look for the good in everything, no matter how difficult it is."