MT Class of ‘23 says goodbye


The Miami Trace Class of 2023 celebrated their high school graduation with a ceremony on Friday evening at the high school gymnasium.

To start the evening off, the Miami Trace band came together to gracefully play classic melodies, while the graduates walked accordingly to their assigned seats. Miami Trace staff members were introduced one at a time, and the academically outstanding students were asked to each give a speech to the crowd of local family and friends.

The first to give a speech was Hillery Jacobs, the 2023 salutatorian. Jacobs began by recognizing and thanking board members, including; Superintendent Kim Pittser, Assistant Superintendent Rob Enochs, as well as the entire Board of Education. She also thanked the counselors and teachers of Miami Trace for “believing in us (graduates) along the way.”

The salutatorian said, “Many of us know and have heard before that it takes a village to raise a child. I think it is safe to say that this community and Miami Trace are a part of all of our villages.”

Jacobs spoke about the confusion her class experienced during COVID-19, and how they “left that year as freshmen,” with the idea that they would return in just three weeks, and then “returning to school as juniors.”

Toward the end of her speech, Jacobs also thanked her family members for their love and support during her high school years, including; her grandparents for their “encouragement,” her sister for being her “rock,” and her Uncle James.

“And lastly,” said Jacobs, “thank you to Deputy Monty Coe and the sheriff’s department for constantly dedicating themselves to the district to ensure the safety of all students and staff. Congratulations Class of 2023. Thank you.”

The next student to give a speech was Gracey Ferguson, one of Miami Trace’s valedictorians of 2023.

“I want to express my gratitude to all those who have impacted our careers as students of Miami Trace,” said Ferguson.

She began by thanking all of the Miami Trace staff and the many families gathered for their support and getting the students “where they are today.”

Ferguson explained that she has learned to embrace change, beginning with her transfer to Miami Trace back in the seventh grade. The valedictorian had moved from a graduating class of only 60, where she was familiar with the small, tight-knit community, to her now graduating class of over 200 at Miami Trace.

“I was welcomed by a gracious network of new friends and the Panther community,” said Ferguson, “and I was able to adapt and become successful during my high school career.”

Ferguson ended her speech by urging her community to “embrace change” and to “step out of their comfort zone” in able to better themselves.

“Who you are now is not who you were yesterday and will not be who you are in the future,” she advised, “go forth as unique individuals and embrace change with positive intentions.”

Next to give a speech was Mallory Lovett, another Miami Trace valedictorian. Lovett began her speech by welcoming family, friends and class members to the 2023 graduation ceremony.

She explained how during the COVID-19 quarantine, she and her classmates were missing all of the regular high school activities, such as FFA, Friday night football, and classes they used to enjoy.

“Doing school work at home and not being able to be social was hard,” said Lovett. “I remember desperately wanting a sense of normal.”

Once the students were able to return to school, however, she said these activities that they were finally able to be a part of again seemed to only “fly by.”

Lovett explained, “It seemed like we went from being asked what we wanted to be when we grew up to being grown up and having to know in a matter of weeks.”

She offered advice to both her peers and the families gathered. The advice came from someone who had offered her a new perspective in the ninth grade: “If it doesn’t matter in five years, who cares.” Lovett added, “So when you fail an exam or you don’t get that job, there are still endless opportunities.”

The valedictorian ended her speech by thanking all of the people in the room, including staff, families, friends and community members for their “endless support.”

Lovett said, “whether we’re best friends or just smile at each other when passing in the hallways, I’m so proud of each and everyone of you.”

The next graduation speech was made by Delaney Thomas, another one of Miami Trace’s talented valedictorians. Thomas began by expressing her hesitance to say goodbye to “the school that gave her 13 wonderful years.” She also thanked the staff at Miami Trace for their “extraordinary work.”

Thomas explained that it has always been her goal to graduate “top of her class,” but that she always put off writing her valedictorian speech with the expectation that she would be “full of wisdom” once she had made it through high school.

She realized over the years, that this was “not at all the case.”

“I concluded that I have learned the most valuable lessons, not from Pinterest quotes nor from Taylor Swift lyrics, but from watching others,” said Thomas, “so that is what I wish to tell you today: Learn from others. Learn from their actions, their mistakes, and their accomplishments.”

Thomas thanked her best friend, Vivienne Jacobson, a fellow Miami Trace 2023 graduate, and the entire Jacobson family for their support and for expanding her perspective.

“I learned to keep an open mind,” said Thomas. “I learned to see all people equal regardless of gender, race, beliefs, lifestyles, etc.”

She continued by thanking her father, a Miami Trace Middle School teacher and EMT.

Thomas said, “this crazy man (Mr. Thomas) will fight fires all night, from 7 in the evening to 7 in the morning, then go straight to the middle school directly after with little to no sleep.” She tearfully added, “While doing all of this for others, he is still able to be an amazing father and step-father for his own children.”

At the end of her speech, the valedictorian had a “challenge” for everyone present.

“No matter what the start of the rest of your life holds, I challenge you to keep an open mind, to serve others, and to be adaptable,” said Thomas. “But most importantly and I cannot stress this enough, find people to look up to and learn from them.”

The last speech to be made at the ceremony was by the MTHS class president, Jacob Cline, who had “hoped” to make his speech a “memorable one.”

Cline began by explaining how he never realized how many “lasts” he had throughout his school years.

He said, “I always loved the last days because I knew we’d all see each other again. Same time. Same place. Same people. But in a few minutes it will be the last day for all of us.” Cline emotionally added, “The only thing different is…… we won’t be coming back”

Although, through the years, the sentence, Cline said, that “changed everything,” was “thank you.”

The class president described his gratitude toward the Miami Trace faculty for all of their hard work and effort into the students’ education. He made sure to specifically thank everyone who ever had an important role in his upbringing.

Cline first thanked his friends; Peyton Black, Kelly Evans, Kymberlee Fisher, Madi Williams, Ally Fitzgerald, and most importantly Meghan Cory.

Then, he made sure to thank two specific teachers who were “amazing” educators and mentors: Mrs. Hawvermale and Ms. West.

Cline also thanked his “second mom,” Dawn Dawson, for being there for him, and his two best friends, Sara Dawson and Maddie Frye, who are also Miami Trace 2023 graduates.

“Lastly, I would like to thank my parents, Jolena and Jason Cline,” Cline said tearfully. “Saying ‘thank you’ couldn’t even express the gratitude I feel towards you both. I would not have gotten to where I am today without the both of you. I never feel the need to go out of my way to impress you. So thank you for letting me be myself and for being the best parents I could have ever asked for.”

Cline ended his speech by giving a solid word of advice: “you are going to remember so many ‘lasts’ within your lives,” he said, “but one thing you really need to remember are the ones who helped you make it to those ‘lasts’ and just say a simple, two-word sentence, ‘thank you.’”

High school principal Bryan Sheets proudly handed a diploma into the eager hands of each graduate, and the whole gymnasium watched in awe as his own son stepped onto the platform. Sheets and his son, Bryson Sheets, shared an excited hug, before Mr. Sheets cheerfully congratulated his own son, and watched as he joined the rest of the graduates.

After each student was given a diploma, a key to their futures, the Miami Trace Panthers Class of 2023 tossed their caps up in unison, and departed from their beloved high school for the very last time.

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