Marquand-Zion High School graduated eight seniors during the May 16 Commencement Ceremony, as well as nine eighth graders who graduated into high school.
The ceremony began with a welcome from Superintendent Scott Blake and an invocation from Pastor David Kempfer followed by guest speaker Paul Brown.
Brown who is the assistant fire chief at Fredericktown Fire Department is also a Marquand-Zion alumni.
"Thirty-five years ago, right here at Marquand-Zion High, I was where you are at right now," Brown said. "I spent my last two years of high school working on a plan, and my plan was to get out of town."
Brown said for a long time he did not know what he wanted to do for the rest of his life and it was a long process for him to find his passion. He said during this process he met a girl, the love of his life, who he now has three boys with and have been married for almost 33 years.
"I had been working to live, working for a paycheck," Brown said. "There is nothing wrong with that, but I promise that there is more out there. You have a calling, something you were designed to do. Something that you will love to do, your passion."
Brown challenged the seniors to continue searching and planning until they find that passion. He said it took him years to discover he was meant to be a firefighter paramedic but now that he found it he could not imagine doing anything else.
"As you can tell by my story, I didn't have it all together, and I admit it," Brown said. "I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, so if I can do it, so can you."
Next, eighth grade Salutatorian Ellie Stafford said that saying it has been a crazy end to the school year is an understatement.
"COVID-19 has proved that everything around us is temporary," Stafford said. "It has taught us that in the end it's our homes and families that keep us safe."
Stafford challenged the seniors to be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or discouraged.
Following Stafford's remarks, eighth grade Valedictorian Joel Dees said it was an honor to be the first graduating class from the new middle school.
"Towards the beginning, it was a little chaotic and I wasn't convinced it would be a good year," Dees said. "As we progressed in the year, we changed some things and everything began running smoother. That would not have been possible without the great middle school teachers we are fortunate to have."
High School Principal Sabrina Doublin then presented the eighth grade class to the board of education.
The Marquand-Zion Eighth Grade Graduating Class included Joel Dees, Ellie Stafford, Chance Barron, Amanda Black, Lilly Foster, Taylor Myers, Sage Shoemaker, Ethan Tinker and Austin White.
After the announcement of scholarships awarded to senior class members Coy Bailey and Jack Lin Starkey, senior Salutatorian Bailey took the stage.
"Today is the turning point in each of our lives," Bailey said. "We have spent the past years working towards this day and it is finally here."
Bailey said times may have been rocky with the coronavirus but they did it: the COVID Class of 2020.
"I am thankful to be standing here today with everyone," Bailey said. "Once we walk out these doors today not only did we graduate but start a whole new beginning to our lives."
Senior Valedictorian Jack Lin Starkey started his speech by thanking his Lord Jesus Christ, his parents, and teachers. He then took a trip back to his first day of school life in 2007.
"We are nervous and anxious, but little did we know that in the next few years we would learn so much together," Starkey said. "It was all a new experience to us. We didn't know what was lying ahead but we knew we were in this together."
Starkey said all their hard work throughout their school life has built and prepared them for whatever comes their way in life.
"High school has been an unforgettable journey that has prepared us for the future," Starkey said. "It has shaped us to be who we are today."
The graduates were presented by High School Principal Sabrina Doublin and presented with their diplomas.
The 2020 Marquand-Zion Graduating Class included Jack Lin Starkey, Coy Bailey, Nicholas Beck, Skylar Jaroszewski, David Junod, Byron Lord, Kegan Matlock and Zachary Matlock.
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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