Three-hundred-and-one seniors received their diplomas at Farmington High School’s 2023 Commencement held Sunday in the Farmington Civic Center gymnasium.
Commencement began with the processional of graduates, accompanied by “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the FHS Band, under the direction of Director Elliot Naes.
The FHS AFJROTC Color Guard presented the colors, the FHS Band played the national anthem and then Taylor J. Matthiesen, Student Council president, welcomed everyone to the graduation. Students entering military service were recognized by the branches of service by the band and color guard.
Mineral Area College President Dr. Joe Gigour recognized graduating seniors who received their associate degree from the community college and, later in the program, Kim Cochran, a representative from Missouri Baptist University, recognized Ty Northern, who was the first FHS student to graduate with his associate degree from Missouri Baptist University.
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Matthiesen, senior class president, presented the senior challenge, with the junior response given by Cole Zimmerman, junior class president.
The senior song, “Lean on Me,” was performed by the A Cappella Choir, Claire Naes, director, followed by the commencement address given by Robert Upchurch, FHS teacher and local pastor. The commencement speaker is chosen each year by a vote of the senior class.
Addressing the students, Upchurch said, "First, let’s spend our lives laughing because there is truly so much joy to be found. More than nearly anything else, my students and I laugh together. I hope that’s something they remember, and, really, I hope it continues. Life is just too short not to love it. Unfortunately, we can all be so whiny — and this isn’t an age thing.
"I talk to a lot of people in a lot of different settings, and this is a nearly universal condition. It’s far easier to complain about the “bad stuff” in our lives than even remember anything that’s good. If that’s all there is — one moan after another until we die — what a sad existence that becomes! But we were made for more.
"In fact, John’s gospel records Jesus saying He came that we might have abundant life — rich, fulfilled, and beautiful! That’s the life we’re meant to live, and it’s available. But we have to be intentional about what we feed our hearts. Nearly 2,000 years ago, the apostle Paul wrote to a church in Philippi with this encouragement:
'...Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.' Philippians 4:8
"We can dwell on what we cannot change, or we can focus on feeding our hearts unshakable and beautiful truth. Let’s learn to laugh even when life is hard. Let’s smile now, so when the difficult days come — and they will — we’ll remember heartache doesn’t have to define us.
"Secondly, we should care because people and pursuits actually matter. Never forget: the opposite of love isn’t anger or hate — not that those are particularly good either — it’s apathy. And apathy is as rampant in our world as it is destructive. All it leads to is self-indulgent sorrow. You will be surrounded by it, but you don’t have to let it consume you.
"Instead, care enough to see people. So much in life is fleeting. We won't be in these specific places with these specific people forever. I know society pushes not missing out on opportunities, and there is some truth to that. We do want to keep our eyes peeled for doors God is opening. However, in the process don’t miss out on people. No one crosses your path on accident.
"There are real people with real concerns, real dreams, and real struggles — and you have a chance to be a positive part of their journey. Try to make a conscious effort to care enough to notice them. Compassionate eyes see the world differently, we should pray to have those.
"On that same note, care enough to pursue what matters. As cliché as this might sound, the decisions we make while we’re young are laying a foundation for who we will be for the rest of our lives. So often people look back with regrets because they feel they’ve wasted so much time. It’s easy to do.
"Time moves so fast, and despite our best intentions, we might look back and realize instead of doing all those awesome things we had planned… we’ve just binge-watched a bunch of shows that have added absolutely nothing to the quality of our lives (or flipped through a bunch of Tik Toks of literally nothing)!
"Still, we’re given 24 hours every day, and we get to decide how to use them. Let’s pursue something bigger than ourselves. Let’s chase excellence without becoming a slave to vanity. Jesus said He came not to be served, but to serve! I’d say He spent His time pretty wisely. Don’t wait to start pursuing what matters.
"So often, we’re told not to worry about meaningful stuff until we’ve gotten through our early 20s and “sown our wild oats.” That’s stupid! Eat oats. They’re delicious. Develop character. Don't be afraid to make mistakes along the way. It’s a process. But love the truth enough to chase after it.
"Lastly, persevere because you’re loved. At times like graduation, many are surrounded by evidences of this love. Oh, how we should cherish those reminders! However, for others, special days reveal gaping holes instead. Not having people around who love us can make us feel isolated and without hope. Those aren’t feelings easily shaken.
"If nothing else resonates, please hear this — you are loved! Your life has meaning. There is a plan and a purpose for your steps. Even if you don’t see the people who care in this world, Jesus loves you unconditionally — and that makes all the difference! So, laugh because there’s so much joy to be found, care because people and pursuits matter, and persevere because you’re loved."
Upchurch concluded his speech with a whimsical song he wrote, while accompanying himself on guitar.
Knight of the Year
Following the commencement address, T.J. Benoist was named “Knight of the Year” in a presentation given by Roy Northern, FHS assistant principal.
FHS Principal Dr. Jamie LaMonds presented the Latin Honors Students, followed by the presentation of diplomas and A+ medals by Farmington Board of Education President Kerry Noble and Vice President Jeff Lawson.
The school song was sung by the Middle School/High School Choir under the direction of Choir Director Claire Naes, accompanied by the FHS Band under the direction of Assistant Band Director Mari Porter.
The conferring of degrees was performed by Principal LaMonds, followed by the recessional of graduates to the accompaniment of “Stars and Stripes Forever” performed by the FHS Band under the direction of Nicole Wise, assistant director.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, LaMonds asked the seniors to give their families a standing ovation and then shared some class statistics.
"This class of 2023 has 301 graduates," she said. "I know, that's a lot! They have had four conference championships, one district championship. They've won 61% of their varsity contests. They have 52 academic all-state athletes and 82 scholar athletes. Fiften seniors have signed with colleges or universities to continue their athletic career. Ten all-state athletes. Boys' Coast Country team placed fourth at state. We had three state ACES (AHEC Career Enhancement Scholars) finishes, 14 CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant) students, eight entering the military, 52% of the graduates earning college credit, 4,472 college credit hours earned, 31 AA degrees from Mineral Area College, one from Missouri Baptist, five Bright Flight Scholars, one National Merit finalist, one Presidential Scholar, 89 A+ scholarships, a total of $2 million in scholarships. And this class broke the record with 7,112 community service hours completed by the senior class."
Then she instructed the graduates, "Ladies and gentlemen, you may move your tassels."
2023 FHS graduates
The symbols following some of the graduates' names stand for the different accomplishments that graduate has achieved. The symbols are as follows:
* Students who are members of the National Honor Society; [*] graduates joining military service; # students with MAC 42-hour College Block; = students with MAC Associate of Arts Degree; - students with MBU Associate of Arts Degree; and (c) students graduating with CNA Certification.
Seth Ahrens, Chloe Allen = *, Brayden Armes =, Karter M. Arnett, Arianna Neveah Aston, Logan Thomas Ayers, Wyatt Joseph Bach [*], Ian Bailey, Adam Russell Baldwin, Nathaniel James Ballew, Trevor Michael Ballew, Jared Samuel Barnes, Christopher August Barth, Aleigha Renee Barton, Alexander Hank Barton, Jackson D. Bauer, Paige Ann Marie Becerra, Evan Joshua Bennett, Thomas (TJ) Benoist *, Taylor Michael Benson, Nora Berkbigler = *, Johnathan Ryan-Dale Bilderback, Owen Douglas Birkner, Cade Brian Blackmon, Kaitlynn M. Bloodworth, Karliana Sophia Bloom =, Kaitlyn M. Boeckmann, Grace Anne Bone, Thatcher Dwayne Bowling, Justus Boyer *, Phoenix Boyer, Taylor Branch, Haley Denise Branham, Stephanie Kay Breckner, Jacob Oliver Bridgeman, Olivia Paige Brockes, Levi Collin Brown, Bryce Eugene Buchanan, Shelby Lee Bullock, Emma Grace Burgess =, Austin Bradley Cain, Gavin Casey, Carrisa Ann Cassimatis = *, Ethan Chaisson, Austin Jacob Childs, Tylor Ray Clanton, Paul William Clark [*], Regan Olivia Cline = *, Ashley Donalta Cohen = *, Austin Jeffrey Eugene Cole, Kadyn Andrew Cole, Austin Michael Coleman, Devon Coleman, Emma Rae Collins * (c), Mackayla Nichole Cook, Lillian Paige Cooper, Ryan Conner Cooper, Sway Ivory Willow Cooper, Leah Rae Coppaway (c), Kaden D. Counts, Ashelynn Marie Courtney = *, Grace Elizabeth Cowley *, Brady Coleman Cox, Audrey Marie Crawford, Dominic Chase Crisp, Emma Cummings =, Angelia Kay Davis *, Austin Matthew Davis, Alexandra Elizabeth Deason, Demitre Scott Decker, Hayley Layne DeClue, Annabelle Marie DeVoto = *, Eric Matthew Dickerson, Parker Scott Dickinson [*], Seth Malachi Donley, Grace Marie Duncan *, Eligh Andrew Dyess, Alexis Ann Easter, Aidden Lawrence Eck, Paige Lorin Edwards, Shawn Grigorivich Evseev *, Luke Fambrough, Brooklyn Paige Feeney, Sydney Jane Fitzwater, Alijah Rose Fleming-, Kennon Brianna Foland, Ashton James Fontenot, Kaden James Foster, Haley Renee Fritz, Kaley Marie Fritz, Trent Dylan Galczynski = *, Morgan Radis Gann, Alison Lee Gibbs, Madelyn Margaret Gidden, Nathanial Hugh Parsons Gilbert, Brenner Wade Gollaher, Trevor James Gowen, Jelena Rayne Gray, Jonah Michael Hagerty *, Gabreille Marie Hale, Marissa Marie Hall, Tessa Grace Hand = *, Gavin Lane Harmon, Becket Thomas Harness, Justin Tyler Harris, Gage Nolan Harrold, Zoe Lea Hartupee, Jacob James Heberlie =, Klarissa Heberlie #, Suzan Mae Helton = *, Matthew David Henderson, Gabriella Christine Henson, Gage Nathaniel Henson, Jacob Robert Horn, Charles Stewart Houser, Luke Jonah Houston, Kaitlin Jade Howe, Drake Hrdina, Hailey Huitt, Bryce Wayne Hull, Ruby Ann Humphrey, Carson Alec Hurt, Peyton Michael Inman, Johnny Edward Jackson, Walker W. Jacobs, Emmalee Marie Jarvis, Stephen Michael Jent, Landon Scott Johnson, Riley Lynn Johnson, Ryan Anthony Johnson = *, Aubree LaRynn Jones, Kiera Raven Jones, Owen Keith Jones, Kamryn Abigail Kemper = * Aiden, Wayne Kennon, Alijah Rose-Fleming Kennon, Trinity Justine Kershaw, Savannah Lynn Ketcherside, Olivia Rose Killian, Cadence Avery King *, Nathaniel Bradly King, Samuel James Knight, McKinzie Marie Knox, Jade Bre’Ann Koen, Michael J. Koppies, Braxden Lane Krause, Rielle Nakole LaCava, Andrew Christian Lee, Austin William Lee, Chloe Lee, Lane Remington Lindsey, Chloe Ann Link (c), Christopher Perry Link, Skylar Kaylee Link, Rachel Marie Littrell, Cloey Elizabeth Long, Zachery Cole Lowrey, Olivia Renee Lugo, Lily E. Martin, Andrew Mason, Taylor J. Matthiesen = *, Emma Gail Mattingly, Nathan Carter McCarthy, Carson David McClanahan, Brandon A. McFall, Brianna Rose McFall, Anna Claire McKinney *, Caden Allen McNail, Breana Lynn Messmer, Jeremiah Everett Metcalf, Abbie Elizabeth Miller *, Alexia Marie Miller, Ciara Dawn Miller, Layne Ezra Miller, DeVontae Patrick Minor, Sawyer Andrew Mohan #, Wyatt Lane Moon, Lexi Grace Morgan [*], Aiden Clair Moriarty = *, Seairra Ann Mott, Carmen Rennee Mueller Dawson Christopher Mueller (c), Caden Michael Mungle, Morgan Riley Nesler = *, Hunter Thomas Nickelson, Brooke Lea Noll, Ty Alexander Northern -*, Brenna Marie Owens, Brian Christopher Padgitt [*], Elisha Matthew Parker, Justin Brennan Parsons [*], Autumn Irene Pearson, Dustin Ray Pelot, Casey Sara Penno, Ian Jeffrey Perry, Diep Hoang Phan = *, James W. Pikey, Riley Rene Pirtle, Eli Robert Pollock, Isabella Rayne Pounds, Allionna Richell Powell, Dylan Wayne Pratte [*], Lillie Marie Prier, Thomas Antony James Prier, Tucker David Pyatt, Vanessa Rose Ramsey, Olivia Rastorfer, Maci Mae Rawson, Caroline Ann Reeves = *, Shaman Orion Reiman, Kiersten Elizabeth Reissing, Alayna Bradyn Resinger, Chloe Riden, Heath Alan Ritchie, Cameron Estes Roberson, Credence Carolyn Roberts [*], Nicole Taylor Roberts, Devyn Rodgers, Siclaly Rodriguez-Santos, Joel Iribe Rojas, Sophia Chloe Rokan, Collin Vincent Roth, Jade Marie Roth *, Jack McKinley Sandweg, Brandon Schaupert, Nathan William Schnur, Brooklyn Riley Schrag, Chloe Mae Scoggins =, Hannah Nicole Sertl, Oryan Shepard, Olivia Kathryn Sherrill =, Carson C. Short, Adelaide Catherine Siddle, Anna Elizabeth Sikes, Madison Ann Since =, Wyatt Keith Skaggs [*], Richard Philip Skinner, Allen Daniel Smith, Brooklyn Ann Smith, Emma Rose Smith, Malachi Charles Smith, Mark Alan Southern, Austin Jay Spitzmiller, Alyssa K. Stacy = *, Robynn Jean Steffen, Frank W. Stockson, Laci Marie Straughan, Bob Hongyi Su = *, Skylar Marie Sweeney, Emma Grace Swoboda, Heather Marie Tabor, Kayson Tacker, Gabrielle Mae Thieret, Abigail Thurman = *, Reese Korin Eve Tiefenauer, Conner Michael Tinnin, Jack Aiden Toney, Isaiah James Townsend, Ayden Treece, Grant Tucker, Logan James Tucker, Amber Dawn Turner, Austin Matthew Turner, Kace Turner, Emma Nicole Umfleet, Elizabeth Ann Varhalla *, Peyton VarVera, Lucas Jacob Vogt, Garrett James VonArx, Cheyenne Lynn VonThun, Maxwell Voyles, Garrett Joe Ward, Jailyn Leigh Westbrook, Justin Alexander Weston, Bryce Steven Wheetley *, MacKenzie Lynn White = *, Ryan Allen White, Jacob Sage Wienecke-Friedman, Abbie Ann Wigger = *, McKenna Wilbourn, John Willcut, Courtney Ann Williams, Weston Coy Williamson, Jaiden V. Wilson, Karly Wilson, Sebastian Wilson, Randall Lynn Windsor *, Alyssa Nicole Wiseman, Isaiah Houston Wolfe, Chloe Isabella Wood, Corbynn J.M. Wood, Griffynn A.D. Wood, Michaela Rose Wood #, Joshua Ryan Wyatt, Sydney Shane Wynn, Caleb Brayden Young, Alyssa Marie Zahn, Hayden Joseph Zamora, Sydney Anne Zaricor, and Clayton Alan Zimmerman.
Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-783-9667 or firstname.lastname@example.org