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North County graduates 175 seniors

Each year a group of students prepare for what is one of the biggest days of their lives … high school graduation. On Thursday evening some 175 seniors at North County High School took that first step in a new direction.

The evening began with nervous teens and parents inspecting gowns and adjusting caps just right. Final touches to makeup and hair were applied, and a flower was pinned to each student’s chest. Tassels were hung on the correct side with care and A+ pins and cords were added to their attire.

Dylan Helms said this is a big deal and he knows what everyone means when they say high school goes by really fast … earlier in the day he was thinking about his band days and it was kind of emotional.

Helms started at North County but moved to Arizona after middle school. He came back this year and graduated with his original class.

“It’s different and I am very excited to graduate, but I am a little sad because I was watching graduation (at the school he attended in Arizona) on Snapchat with my other friends,” said Helms. “They graduated last night.”

Donavan Johnson said he was a little excited because it’s a new chapter in his life and he is leaving for the Army in July.

“I am going to basic training and hopefully I will make a career (of the military),” said Johnson. “I am going in for 12th Bravo Combat Engineer and I’ll be slinging it with infantry. I come from a long line of military in my family. I am making my family very proud.”

Allie Hammack said while she had a long career of sports during high school, she is going a different direction in college.

“I am going to study biological sciences at Southeast and I felt that was going to be difficult enough,” said Hammack. “Sports would definitely be a hard one to do and I will miss them, but I’m ready to just study. It’s a hard thing to do and it will be rough when I see others start their seasons, but I’ll be excited for them.”

As the ceremony began the students filed down to the football field and walked past the bleachers and around the track before getting to their seats. Principal Lance Sprenkel welcomed everyone to the ceremony.

Sprenkel thanked those who helped make the ceremony possible and the parents and family members who have supported their seniors throughout their education, adding that without their support many of the students might not make it to this milestone.

“I want to thank the seniors for their hard work, through your hard work the class of 2017 has been awarded nearly $1.5 million in scholarship money over the next four years,” said Sprenkel. “Congratulations on a job well done.”

The principal told all the seniors to take a look at all the people in the audience and see the great support system they have in their life.

“Take a glance at those who have sacrificed, treasured, cared for and encouraged you over the last 18 years of your lives,” said Sprenkel. “Now, look at your classmates. You have spent the last four years of high school experiencing life together. Appreciate those moments and cherish your classmates forever.”

Valedictorian Joe O’Hara stepped up to the podium and gave a fair warning that his speech may come off as a bit awkward for two reasons. One being that he was uncomfortable because he’s not in his normal attire of hoodie, and sweatpants,

“Secondly I’m kind of nervous. OK, I’m really nervous,” said O’Hara. “My palms are sweaty, knees weak, and my arms feel really heavy. But anyway, here it goes. Every morning when I came into school, all I wanted to do was leave. So why in the world is it so hard to leave right now?”

Before O’Hara came North County he went to St. Joseph’s, which was a small school with only 13 students in his eighth grade class. He said as everyone could imagine it was quite the transition for him coming into high school.

“Looking back we have grown so much as a class,” said O’Hara. “Four years ago we were all tiny freshmen children who have now blossomed into young men and women. We’ve grown physically and mentally.”

O’Hara said they have become more open-minded and accepting of one another. Coming out of middle school most of them had had cliques and they wouldn’t dare talk to people outside of them. But as the years went by, and they grew ever closer, those cliques … those barriers … faded away.

“This really became prevalent to me on senior week, when I saw everyone interacting with one another regardless of their status on the social hierarchy,” recalled O’Hara. “As I graduate today I cannot forget to thank those who got me here … Google, coffee, copy/paste and (salutatorian) Chloe (Bess). But in all seriousness, over just the four short years I have been here, I have received an amazing amount of support from my friends, including Chloe, the faculty, and my parents … and I’d like to thank them for this support.”

Next, Salutatorian Chloe Bess took the podium and said she had been anticipating the moment for the last 13 years, and now it was finally upon them.

“This moment is special because it is what we have worked toward for most of our lives,” said Bess. “Most of us presumably do not remember a time when we were not in school. In fact, most of us probably will not remember exactly what we learned (day to day) in the classroom during our days at North County schools, but hopefully we will bear in mind the memories we have made here.”

Bess gave many thanks to everyone who helped bring her and her class to the pivotal point of graduation.

“I would also like to thank the men and women who serve our country,” said Bess. “Without them, we would not have the opportunity to celebrate here today. As we go into this weekend, let us remember what it means and honor those who have paid the ultimate price for us. We truly owe them everything.”

Bess said she stood before one of the most unique classes to ever graduate from North County High School. If she could sum up their class in one word that word would be “ambitious.”

“Each one of us is driven by our own goals, and it is because we are so determined that we will be successful in the future in whatever it is we are doing,” said Bess. “Prior generations may say that our generation of millennials are lazy and expect the world to be handed to them. However, I disagree. I believe that this generation, especially those sitting in front of me, are some of the most goal-oriented and driven people I have ever had the privilege to meet.”

Bess challenged her classmates to revel in each precious moment, no matter how insignificant they seem at the time.

Also during the graduation, Sprenkel recognized students for their achievements earned during their four years in high school by having them stand when announced. He recognized the top students in the class, National Honor Society members, those joining the military and those who earned A+ scholarships. Some students wore white cords over their shoulders, denoting their exceptional GPA during their high school years.

Each student was presented a diploma and then Sprenkel presented the class to the crowd. Tassels were turned and hats flew in the air as cheers filled the stadium. The still night air was pierced with fireworks marking the 2017 graduating class being dismissed for the final time.

This year’s graduating students included: Kade Aaron Adams, Joseph Lee Allen, Breanna Rose Backlin, Mario Banales, Anissa Cheyenne Barton, Harley Caleb Barton, Madelynn Jane Barton, Alexzandra Paige Bennett, Chloe Renee Bess, Whitney Elizabeth Bess, Matthew Ryan Black, Kaitlyn Michelle Blackwell, Alyssa Jean Bley, Deziree’ Denise Bowen, Chandra Skye Branson, Leslie Nicole Brayton, Brittany Kristen Brice, Haylee Alexis Brooks, Tyler Wade Buff, Kylee Gene Burns, Elissa Renee Byington, Chelby Linn Carron, Julia Margarita Carrow, Brian Gregory Chandler, and Victoria Ruth Chandler, Nikolas James Christopher, Samuel Albert Christopher, Courtney Nicole Coffman, Justine Tamara Collier, Jacob Daniel Copeland, Samantha Lynn Couch, Collin Vincent Courtway, Irina Caitlyn Cox, Allison Nicole Crews, Dakota Jacob Crocker, Haley Denise Crow, Jordan Laina Crump, Meganne Renee Darity, Mekka Renee Dean, Blake Michael Decker, Landon Keith Dowd, Alicia Riley Draper, Kristian Taylor Dunn, Alexys Michelle Easter, Ethan Michael Elliott, Alexis Linn Faircloth, and Hannah Marie Favell, Jacob Tyler Fenwick, Holly Elizabeth Forbes, Michael Elijah Ford, Patrick Charles Forsythe, Nicholas Christian Gamblin, Thomas Jordan Glore, Landon Wayne Hahn, Allie Michelle Hammack, Amanda Dawn Hammett, Desi’Rae Nicole Hammett, Dillon Michael Hammock, Lauren Michelle Hartwick, Carson Danlee Heady, Dylan Matthew Helms, Logan Riley Henderson, Ashley Diamond Henk, Thomas Alexander Herr, Alison Elise Hill, Kenneth DeWayne Hopkins, Brett Lee Paul Hubbard, and Kaitlyn Ann Hurst, Anthony Todd Inserra, Daniel Thomas Jackson, Tristan Alec Jaegers, Donavon Micheal Johnson, Ethan Thomas Keller, Madison Shea Kennedy, Quinn Alan Keown, Stephanie Renee Kim, Katelyn Mackenzie Kindlesparger, Ian Gregory Koffman, Jared Michael Kohm, Jessica Caprial Korte, Allison Nicole Koyn, Emma Marie Lanman, Dylan Roy Lanz, Braden Chandler Lawson, Kyrie Grace Lewis-Foot, Kaitlyn and Elizabeth Litton, Kyle Ray Lord, Jasmyne Leah Love, Madison Danielle Mackley, Andrew Martin Marlow, Bridget Renee Martin, Isabel Rebecca Matheu, Devin Alexander McDaniels, Kolby Matthew Scott McDowell, Kaitlyn Elizabeth McMillin, Nicole Lynn Merrell, Alexis Anne Meyer, Derrick Craig Meyer, Eric James Middendorf, Caitlyn Alexis Marie Moore, Michael Clay Moore II, Mitchell Ray Moore, Joshua Davin Nations, Kaley Irene Newland, and Michael Grayson Nichols, Celsey Nicole Noble, Cameron Michael Nunn, Joseph Allen Wayne O’Hara, Anna Rose Ortmann, Matthew James Ortmann, Emily Diana Owings, Makenna Elaine Pack, Emma Elizabeth Patterson, Gaige Benjamin Peery, Justin Michael Perez, Jennifer Lynn Peterson, Jared David Pettus, Courtney Linn Phillips, Brayden Lee Phillips, Emily Elizabeth Pigg, Stacy Nicole Politte, Taylor Ann Politte, and Kylie Marie Pope, Sidney Marie Pribble, Amber Dawn Pyeatt, Rachel Michelle Reeder, Jenni Berta Renshaw, Shannon Elizabeth Riccio, Billy Don Rohlic, Erika Belle Rosa, Briana Lynn Rosener, David Martin Rousselo, Zachery Wayne Rulo, Austin James Rutledge, Cole William Rutledge, Michael Armando Salais, Devon Gerard Scott, Casey Andrew Seckel, Michael William Self, Tyler Bryant Shrum, Jonathan Scott Skaggs, Duncan Campbell Skidmore, Erika Raven Michelle Skiles, Libby Elaine Slinkard, Ava Marie Alexis Smith, Briana Michelle Smith, Garrett Christopher Smith, Travis Petro Smith, Justin Michael Sohn, Jessica Marie Spain, Kathleen Rose Spradling, Quentin Edward Stoffel, Dustin Kyle Stokes, Hunter Renae Stroup, Thomas Joseph Struckman Jr, Christopher Steven Sutton, Danielle Nicole Thurman, Demi Renae Toombs, Derek Ryan Toombs, Brandon Aaron Truesdell, Elijah Adam Turnbough, Garrett Clifford Vessell, Kori Beth Ann Wade, Jaycie Lynn Wadlow, Christopher Lynn Walker, Hannah Mae Waymire, Noah Kenneth Webb, Katie Lynn Wells, Kimberley Kirsten Willhelm, Kade Austin Williams, Logan Kyle Williams, Ronlen Sue Anna Wiskirchen, Jordan Nicholas Wood, and Madison Elainia Lee Ziegler.

Valedictorian Joe O’Hara addresses his class for the final time Thursday evening during commencement exercises at North County High School.

Valedictorian Joe O’Hara addresses his class for the final time Thursday evening during commencement exercises at North County High School.

Salutatorian Chloe Bess gives her speech and thanks everyone for getting her and her graduating class to where they are today.

Salutatorian Chloe Bess gives her speech and thanks everyone for getting her and her graduating class to where they are today.

Allie Hammack speaks her class during the North County commencement ceremony Thursday night. 

Allie Hammack speaks her class during the North County commencement ceremony Thursday night. 

North County Class of 2017

North County Class of 2017

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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