The evening could not have been more perfect, as members of Claremore’s 2023 graduating class took to Lantow Field for the final event of the year: graduation.
Blue skies and an occasional white cloud contrasted perfectly with the green turf of the football field, where a sea of red-gowned high school seniors lined the field. Then, promptly at 7:30 p.m., under the baton of Director David Mudd, the CHS band began to play the first strands of “Pomp and Circumstance,” signaling the end of the beginning for 281 students.
“It is our belief you can be one of the most far-reaching generations in our history,” commencement speaker Bruce Riggs, 2023 District Teacher of the Year, told the seniors. “You will no doubt solve some of our most pressing medical, technological and social issues facing our country today.”
Riggs pointed out that attitude, work ethic and just plain good manners make for a winning combination.
“Forget all that nonsense about the playing field being rigged or not having a chance. But be careful who you associate with, for you will become like the five people [with whom you surround yourself],” he said.
Don’t take the easy way, Riggs cautioned.
“Taking shortcuts is a lie; good things come from putting in the hard work. Take risks! People who are willing to take risks and walk through open doors always achieve greater success," he said.
He said upon entering the next phase of life, the graduates need to seek out mentors.
“I believe this to be the secret of those who achieve at the highest levels,” Riggs said as he gave a shoutout to his mentor: Alger Flood, a man well known in Claremore circles. He thanked him for his inspiration.
“… never settle for mediocrity, not in any form. It is truly the monster that lives in each of us," Riggs said.
He then challenged students with a question: “What are you doing right this evening to achieve greater things in your life?. ... My belief tells me we are created and made by God to do good work.”
Riggs ended by encouraging the Class of 2023 to commit to doing great work and "being one of the most substantial generations of our lifetime.”
The evening also included the traditional addresses from top students, both academic and leadership.
Valedictorians Sylvia Admire, Elissa Hollaway, Reagen Jauquet and Emily Rogers shared advice and encouragement for the future with classmates, while Senior Class Presidents Jenna Smalygo and Ryne Vance offered a somewhat comedic perspective on high school life and more.
“One thing I believe everyone can relate to is an unrelenting need for happiness," said Admire, daughter of Jennifer and Patrick Admire.
She quoted Walt Whitman, who said, “Do anything but let it produce joy.”
“That is the best advice I have for you,” she said. “…for me, prioritizing happiness is generally the answer. … It not only makes your life easier but also helps you to be able to share yourself with others.”
Hollaway thanked faculty and staff, as well as her parent father and stepfather and especially her mother.
“The scariest thing is, you’re on your own now; but the cool thing is, you’re on your own now," she told her classmates.
She then quoted Taylor Swift: “So, make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it. You have no reason to be afraid.”
Jauquet, daughter of Melissa and Eric, thanked all the faculty at Claremore School.
“You make an enormous impact on the world and do not get nearly the credit you should," she said.
She said COVID taught her life is unpredictable.
"We really don’t know what will happen tomorrow … but we can be resilient … get up stronger and go forward and flourish...,” she said.
She quoted Theodore Roosevelt’s famous words: “It is not the critic who counts not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles … The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … who strives valiantly … who spends himself in a worthy cause … daring greatly. ..."
Rogers called out some of her classmates.
“If you are one of those people who can’t wait to graduate, I urge you to step back and live in the moment," she said.
She recalled friends and events, saying she would always remember the people who made high school a great place to be. She thanked God and told classmates to “take on this next chapter of our life, head first.”
Fifteen CHS seniors were honored as salutatorians: Jenna Smalygo, Kili Worth, Kinsey Singer, Brooklyn Doonkeen, Raegen Hofstetter, Grace Kreps, Emma Peters, Lahna Erwin, Kenedy Roach, Isaac Reedy, Lauren Simmons, Sadie McSpadden, Allison Dohrer, Anna Greenland and Ethan Smith.
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