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Standing room only for West County graduation

It was standing room only in West County High School’s auditorium-gymnasium on Sunday afternoon as the school district honored 65 graduating seniors during commencement exercises for the Class of 2017.

Those graduating walked into the gym two at a time as the West County High School Band, directed by Darren Cordray, played “Pomp and Circumstance.” The students were followed in by West County High School teachers, administrators and members of the district’s board of education.

Principal Eric Moyers offered a brief welcome. After that the band, again led by Cordray, performed “Prairie Dances,” followed by a PowerPoint presentation, in which a photograph of each graduating senior as a young child was displayed next to that student’s senior picture.

After the slide show, members of the West County High School Choir, directed by Ryan Hassell, sang “You Raise Me Up,” featuring a solo by graduating senior Austin Henson, who plans to attend Missouri Baptist University to seek a degree in broadcast media. All of those gathered in the gym were then invited to sing the “West County School Song” along with the choir.

Afterwards, a large number of the seniors were recognized for their many accomplishments as family and friends looked on from the facility’s bleachers and from the mezzanine level overlooking the gym floor.

First, members of the National Honor Society were named and asked to stand and included David AuBuchon, Hope Barnes, Hailey Barton, Megan Blair, Ashley Boushie, Ashley Brewer, Danyelle Brewer, Paul Chandler, Whitney Dee, Brianna Hayes, Jamilyn Hedgecorth, Austin Henson, Riley Hill, Moira Kane, Syr Lyons, Joshawa McSpadden, Levi Mills, Matthew Momot, Brendan Pingel, Logan Pratt, Mason Pratt, Taylor Reed, Samantha Retzer, Michael Sherrill, Hannah Skaggs and Kaysa Wilkinson.

The graduating class also includes five students who earned Eagle Scout status — Caleb Trotter, Josh McSpadden, Brendan Pingel, Michael Sherrill and Levi Mills — an achievement only about four percent of the United States population has attained.

In addition, Ashley Brewer was recognized for graduating from Mineral Area College with her Associate of Science degree on May 6, becoming the first West County student to earn a college degree in conjunction with her high school diploma.

Salutatorian Paul Chandler, in addition to his other honors, was named the winner of the Donald Orr Scholarship, which will help pay his tuition at the Missouri University of Science and Technology where he will work toward a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.

During his address to those gathered, Chandler made a point of acknowledging and thanking the teachers who helped prepare him and his classmates for the next stage of their lives.

“We have a lot of life ahead of us,” he said, “and the best part is, we got a head start because of the brilliant people who came before us.”

West County’s Class of 2017 had two valedictorians — Taylor Reed and Syr Charles Lyons — who each took their turn giving an address.  

Reed spent some time recollecting some of the dreams her fellow classmates shared as they made their way through elementary, middle and high school, including becoming doctors, firefighters, astronauts, veterinarians, photographers, teachers, physical therapists and her own and others’ dream of becoming a nurse.

“Today, we stand here with our futures right in front of us,” she said, adding that regardless of everyone’s plans, goals and dreams, the friends they made and the memories they created in past years will be taken with them into those futures.

“I hope we always remember the memories that were made with friends that can never be replaced,” she said. “The memories we made here over the past 13 years are ones we will cherish for the rest of our lives.”

Lyons also spoke of shared experiences and memories made with fellow students, saying that although he attended other schools before coming to West County, he felt most at home there. Even though he and many others will be leaving the area for college and other plans, their hearts will remain at West County.

“We will always be West County Bulldogs,” he said, which prompted spontaneous applause and cheering from the crowd. Ending his speech, Lyons remarked that the years he spent at West County have been the best years of his life.

During the scholarship recognition portion of the ceremony, 34 of the graduates were named as A+ Scholarship recipients, numerous students were recognized for earning athletic and other academic scholarships and two students — Lyons and Mason Pratt — were congratulated for becoming National Merit Scholars.

Lily Schnitker was named the winner of the Michael C. Bailey Scholarship, which she will use toward earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Schnitker’s plans include first obtaining an associate degree from Mineral Area College before continuing her education at the University of Alabama.

Moyers then called up the graduates one-by-one to pick up their diplomas, which were presented to them by Superintendent Stacy Stevens, West County Board of Education President Shawn Meinershagen and other school board members.

At the end of the ceremony, the class of 2017 was presented as a whole and together moved the tassels of their caps from the right side over to the left.

The ceremony ended with the tradition of graduates tossing their caps into the air followed by a lot of laughter as they sprayed each other with Silly String.

The following are West County High School’s Class of 2017: Paige Allison, David AuBuchon, Tyara AuBuchon, Hope Barnes, Jared Barnett, Erica Barton, Hailey Barton, Rory Basden, Megan Blair, Ashley Boushie, Ashley Brewer, Danyelle Brewer, Dalton Brooks, Katie Byers, Paul Chandler, Cody Clubb, Harley Clubb, Denis Cook IV, Dusty Crump, Justin Crump, Brittany Davis, Whitney Dee, Jordan Elders, Rheannon Fritchley, Brianna Hayes, Jamilyn Hedgecorth, Austin Henson, Emily Hickman, Riley Hill, Ginny Johns, Jonathan Jones, Moira Kane, Cedar King, Samantha Kittrell, Stephan Lewis, Syr Lyons, Mark Markham, Carson McKee, Taylor McLeod, Danielle McMullin, Joshawa McSpadden, Jacob Meinershagen, Levi Mills, Mara Mills, Jazmyne Moman, Matthew Momot, Douglas Morgan, Hadyn Nash, Brendan Pingel, Logan Pratt, Mason Pratt, Cassidy Pulliam, Aleisha Radford, Taylor Reed, Samantha Retzer, Lily Schnitker, Michael Sherrill, Hannah Skaggs, Kayla Staten, Aaron Sturm, Dylan Thurman, Caleb Trotter, Lauren Van Cleave, Kaysa Wilkinson and RikkiLyn Wright. 

New West County High School graduate Whitney Dee smiles as she walks back to her seat after receiving her diploma during commencement ceremonies Sunday afternoon.  </p><p class=

See more photos at” width=”800″ /> New West County High School graduate Whitney Dee smiles as she walks back to her seat after receiving her diploma during commencement ceremonies Sunday afternoon.  

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<span><p class=West County Board of Education member Cleda Momot presents Matthew Momot with his high school diploma during commencement ceremonies on Sunday afternoon. ” width=”800″ /> West County Board of Education member Cleda Momot presents Matthew Momot with his high school diploma during commencement ceremonies on Sunday afternoon. 

Amy Patterson is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3616 or

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