By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
After a year that included some tough classes as well as sports and extracurricular activities that ate up his free time, Johnny Presley said his graduation from high school can’t come fast enough.
“I’m just ready to go,” the Joplin High School senior said. “The days go by quick. I’m more than excited for graduation.”
Presley is one of more than 460 students expected to receive their diplomas next month from Joplin High School.
Principal Kerry Sachetta said the graduation rate for the class of 2013 is expected to be in the range of 84 to 86 percent — up from a rate that hovered around 79 percent over the past two years — thanks in part to strong academic and extracurricular participation from students, teacher support and a variety of flexible programming.
“This should be the most persistent class on record, so we’re excited about that,” he said.
After last year’s graduating class received President Barack Obama as its commencement speaker, this year’s ceremony is expected to be a return to normalcy, Sachetta said. The high school’s senior principal and district Superintendent C.J. Huff will give speeches, as will three of the top honors students from the graduating class, he said. The senior class president and student council president will provide the opening and closing remarks, he said.
“We’re going to go back to our typical program,” Sachetta said. “That was a great experience last year, but this is getting back to normal.”
Presley said he had a good year as a high school senior. He is nearly finished with several demanding classes, such as calculus and statistics, as well as his involvement with baseball and Link Crew, a peer mentoring and orientation program. Graduation, he said, is an acknowledgment of his efforts, both in and out of school.
“It’s just a huge moment in my life, and I’m proud to say I’ll be able to graduate (despite) all the temptations that are out there that can stop you from graduating,” said Presley, who plans to attend Missouri Southern State University and major in biology on a pre-med track.
Adam St. Peter said his senior year has gone by quickly, with much of his time taken up with football, baseball and basketball and extracurricular activities such as Future Educators of America.
“I’m not counting down the days, but I’m definitely excited for (graduation),” he said.
St. Peter, who plans to attend Missouri State University in Springfield on a football scholarship and pursue a degree in chiropractic, said he views graduation not necessarily as a milestone but rather as something that was expected of him.
“I didn’t really think anything else of it,” he said. “But it does mean something to me. It’s like, finally I’ve done it. These last 12 years haven’t been for nothing.”
MaKenzie Jones said she wasn’t counting the days until graduation — at least, not at first.
“But now, because it’s getting so close, it’s hard to pay attention,” she said. “All of my classes are all seniors, so we’re all ready to get out.”
Jones, the editor of the yearbook, said she plans to attend MSSU for her first year of college and then transfer to the University of Missouri in Columbia to major in English with an emphasis in creative writing. She said she looks forward to whatever post-high school life has to offer, such as living on her own.
“I’m excited since I’ll finally be finished with high school entirely, but at the same time, I’m anxious because it’s a completely different chapter, and I’m not sure what that entails right now,” she said. “It’s going to be a big transition, I think.”
Graduation dates to remember:
• Joplin — 3 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center on the Missouri Southern State University campus. Tickets are required.
• Webb City — 7 p.m. Friday, May 17, at Cardinal Stadium.
• Carl Junction — 4 p.m. Sunday, May 12, at Leggett & Platt Athletic Center at MSSU.
• Carthage — 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at K.E. Baker Stadium. In case of inclement weather, graduation will be in the high school gymnasium.
• Neosho — 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 10, at the high school football stadium. In case of inclement weather, graduation will be in the high school gymnasium.
• Lamar — 5 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at the high school football stadium.
• Pittsburg, Kan. — 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at the high school.