Holton High School graduating seniors (from left to right) Macey Gross, Grace Gallagher, Sadie Walker and Taylor Moore gathered around a cell phone to check the quality of a group photo taken just before they and their classmates went through commencement ceremonies on Saturday in the HHS gym.Graduating Jackson Heights High School seniors (from left to right) Daniel Little, Kylen Kilpatrick, Devon Jones and Silas Holliday listened while the Class of 2022’s co-valedictorians, Shelby Fox and McKenzie McMahon, gave their keynote speech during the JHHS commencement ceremonies held Sunday in the school’s gym.Royal Valley High School's graduating class is shown above after entering the school gym for the 35-minute commencement ceremony.

Graduations held

As graduating Holton High School senior Cooper Sheldon put it, he and his classmates have become “experts at learning” during their school years — not just in class, but in life, as those in attendance at Saturday’s HHS commencement ceremony noted.

“For all the victories, there were plenty of losses. For all the friendly faces, there was time spent apart. And for all the good times, there was COVID,” Sheldon said. “But the victories would not have been possible had we not learned from our losses, and all that time spent apart taught us the importance of being together. All of the events of the past 12 years have taught us valuable lessons, so that we can be better prepared for the future.”

Sheldon’s comments expanded on the graduating HHS Class of 2022 motto — “There are no regrets in life, just lessons” — and as he and his 78 classmates were reminded, there are still lessons to be learned once their school days are over.

“We will make mistakes. We will fall down, we will lose, and we will fail,” he said. “It is up to us to take those failures, get back up and move forward.”

Sheldon and five classmates were honored by HHS Principal Rod Wittmer for graduating at the top of their class — Sheldon at summa cum laude, Maxine Bertulfo, Bobbi Horr, Darby Ireland and Madison Wilt at magna cum laude, and Sydney Althauser at cum laude.

Althauser, in her welcoming speech at Saturday’s ceremony, also expanded upon the motto, attributed to actress Jennifer Aniston, in musing upon a request to “write down lessons we learned in kindergarten.” One such lesson, she noted, was an admonition to “never lean back in your chair.”

“We’ve all seen what can happen when a little kid, or maybe even a high schooler, leans back in their chair just a little too far,” she said. “But there is one thing to admire about this — that kid was taking a chance… Sometimes we in fact do need to take the risk and be like that kid. And sometimes we’ll fall hard, but we will continue to get right back up, and we’ll probably still continue to lean back in that chair from time to time.”

Althauser also reminded those present of the post-graduation plans of her class — 34 students heading to a four-year college, 10 to a two-year college, five to technical school, 25 to the workforce and four to the military.


While Saturday’s graduation at Royal Valley High School signified the closing of a chapter for students, co-valedictorian Catrina Smith reminded her peers that they are “headed to bigger and better things.” 

“This time will forever be a part of each of us, no matter how good or how bad it was, but like every good story, life has a climax, and this is not ours,” Smith said. 

Smith and co-valedictorian Karlie Albright were the featured speakers at the school’s 35-minute commencement ceremony that evening at the RVHS gym where 58 Panthers received their diplomas.

The RVHS Soundsations performed “Memories” and then Smith and Albright each reflected on their years at Royal Valley.

Smith said that one of the best things about attending a small school is the opportunity to grow up together as a class. 

“It’s a strange feeling, graduating,” she said. “We’re about to say goodbye to everything we’ve known and also to the person we’ve been these last four years. You’ll miss the person you are now, but it’s time to be excited for the person you’re going to become.”

Albright discussed the effect COVID-19 had on the students through high school.

“COVID-19 cut our sophomore year short and made a bump in our high school years. We wore masks most of our junior year. We played sports without spectators, we were granted a specific number of tickets per person for event and we ate breakfast and lunch with dividers,” Albright said. “However, COVID did not hold back this Class of 2022.”

Albright noted the members of the class were a part of the state runner-up boys basketball team, the volleyball and girls basketball state champion teams and were national competitors in FCCLA and FFA.

“Throughout our 13 years, we have all become unique. We have all achieved personal goals inside and outside of school,” she said. “But it is today that we are all equal. We are all receiving our diplomas with our unique futures awaiting us, and it is likely that few of us will follow the same path. Everything that has happened in the past has prepared us for the future, and beginning now, we have the chance to start fresh.”

Albright also thanked teachers, administrators, parents, family, friends and her classmates for supporting the Class of 2022. 

“Thank you for investing your time to help us achieve in the past, and thank you in advance for everything you will assist us with in the future. We truly could not have gotten here without you.”

The commencement ceremony was extra special for Royal Valley Board of Education members Boone Smith, Ann Kelly and Adele Wahwassuck, who each presented diplomas to their sons – Brennan Smith, Jake Kelly and Nahcs Wahwassuck – during the ceremony. 


“Life goes on.”

That was the message that Jackson Heights High School graduating seniors Shelby Fox and McKenzie McMahon had for their classmates in their co-valedictorian speech, given during a commencement ceremony on Sunday afternoon in the JHHS gym.

“Remember that time you got a bad grade? Life went on,” Fox said. “Your girlfriend dumped you? Life went on. Your bestie tagged a hideous photo of you on Instagram? Life. Went. On.”

For the 29-member JHHS Class of 2022, Sunday’s graduation ceremony served as a reminder that, as McMahon put it, “life is too short for most of the trials and tribulations you will face trying to live it.”

“Life can be a punch in the face,” McMahon said. “It’s always surprising, sometimes funny, sometimes painful, sometimes rude and sometimes scary. But life goes on, and that is our message to you.”

It was also a day for remembering the lives that “went on” over the past four years, with Fox and McMahon providing classmates and audience members with humorous examples of high school life.

And despite a technological glitch that left the senior video presentation without a soundtrack, there was a reminder for all present that the show goes on, as pianist Nancy Sipes jumped into action to provide a last-minute soundtrack to the presentation, contrasting senior photos with images of their early childhood.

District counselor Danielle Alley reminded those present of the seniors’ academic and athletic achievements over the past four years, the latter including the progress made by the volleyball and girls’ basketball teams at the postseason level and those who were part of the football team that made it to the sub-state playoffs during their sophomore year.

Alley also noted that 12 members of the class will continue their education, receiving a total of $21,000 from local scholarships, and reminded audience members of students’ participation in the Cobra Mentors program, the Safe 75 campaign, the Honor Flight and other programs that earned recognition.

The kindness of the class was also recognized by Alley.

“Many of you received kindness awards this year for ‘getting caught’ doing acts of kindness for others,” she said. “Many of you displayed acts of kindness that might not have been rewarded. Remember that kindness and how you enjoy receiving those kind acts. Take that out into the world and continue to spread it.”

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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