Seniors from the Elizabeth High School class of 2016 filed into commencement ceremonies under sunny skies and to cheers May 21, the school’s stadium grandstands filled with family and friend to celebrate the students’ achievements.
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“Class of 2016, you have worked hard to get here,” Elizabeth School District Superintendent Douglas Bissonette told the graduates just before accepting the class. “You have earned this accomplishment. You are the one who did the work”
Leading her class’s work with a GPA of 4.27, valedictorian Marianne Hughes also earned one of 42 Boettcher Scholarships statewide. Established in 1952, the scholarship provides “in-state education and access to additional opportunities to enrich their time in college and beyond.”
After thanking her parents, school staff and the faculty, Hughes reminded her fellow classmates to look forward and offered a quote from Albert Einstein.
“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education,” she said. “And, I can understand that after 12-years in the system why so many have trouble reigniting that flame of passion, inquisitiveness and creativity,” Hughes said. “But don’t let it happen to you. Don’t allow your flame to be extinguished.”
Hughes encouraged her fellow graduates to find their interests and then pursue them relentlessly.
“Question and take risks,” she said. “Make an effort to figure out who you are, and if you are still unsatisfied with what you get, become who you want to be. Because, the most important relationship you’ll have in life is that which you have with yourself.”
Co-valedictorian Zachary Neelley received a standing ovation from the class and faculty when he paid tribute to the hope embodied by his younger brother Hunter, who died of cancer in October 2014.
“The strongest person I knew was my brother Hunter. My brother had hoped that his cancer would not hold him back,” Neelley said. “He battled cancer for five years with a positive attitude and a smile on his face.”
Though Neelley spoke briefly of his family’s challenges during his brother’s illness and the difficulties faced following his death, he stressed the importance of finding hope and appreciating life’s beauty.
“With hope you will find the strength to succeed, and you will be triumphant from the challenges that will come,” he said. “Find strength in your family, your friends, your faith, loved ones, anything, so that when you open your eyes in the morning, you say, `today is worth getting up.’ Find that hope.”
This year’s graduating class earned $3.3 million in college scholarship money, and of the 152 graduating seniors, 10 achieved grade point averages of 4.0 or higher earning, them the title of valedictorian.
Elizabeth High School Class of 2016 valedictorians, with their GPAs:Marianne Hughes (4.27)Megan Reynolds (4.19)Logan Blakeslee (4.15)Andrew Smith (4.15)Anisa Rose Samhouri (4.13)Erika Freisner (4.11)Kristen Jackson (4.09)Zachary Neelley (4.03)Mistery Miller (4.01)Colton Cline (4.0)
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