Friends and family crowded Wilson Field Sunday, May 21, under bright blue skies and golden sun to watch as the 76 members of the Class of 2017 at Olathe High School received their diplomas.
Head boy Justin Mosher welcomed everyone to the ceremony, noting appreciation for the support from the community for all school activities. He also thanked his and his classmates' parents, for their support and love through "thick and thin."
Principal Scot Brown expanded on these themes in his opening remarks. "This is an outstanding class," he said. "I am proud of each and every one of you."
The members of the class have been shaped by their community, according to Brown, with positive characteristics of manners, integrity and caring for one another.
Brown then introduced the Outstanding Alumnus, Bruce Ray, from the OHS Class of 1962. He grew up on Ash Mesa. He attended Mesa State and graduated from Western State in 1966. He was drafted into the U.S. Army, and graduated from Officer Candidate School in 1968. He served in the Army until 1990, retiring at the rank of lieutenant colonel.
He returned home to Olathe, where for 26 years he helped build the business which became Betz Transformers. He also enjoyed years as a Meadow Gold truck driver.
He and his wife, Pam, raised three sons and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Accepting the award on behalf of his father was Devin Ray. Bruce was attending a son's graduation from college.
The honor students of the graduating class were introduced. Miranda Pacheco, Tyrell Gray and Amanda Seymour were named salutatorians, with 4.1 GPAs.
Nine were named valedictorians, with 4.2 GPA: Maria Baltazar, Kacy Henwood, Carla Hernandez, Brandon Julian, Justin Mosher, Lucia Nava-Suarez, Vanessa Neely, Kitara Smolinski and Morgan Sofka.
The guest speaker was Sara Rector, who began her relationship with the Class of 2017 when they were sixth graders and she was a new science teacher. Rector now teaches at Granby Elementary school.
She recalled when she first talked to them about matter in scientific terms. "Now," she said, "I want you to think of matter as a journey."
While preparing to talk, Rector said she considered, "What have I done in 17 years since I graduated?" She explained that upon reflection, she believes she is making a difference in the world, that she has a job that she is passionate about, and has a loving family.
"I could not be more excited about what you will experience in the next 17 years," she told the graduates.
The nine valedictorians took the stage to deliver a shared speech. They took their classmates and audience down memory lane, recalling shared memories of grade school, middle school and high school. As one delivered their segment, another would translate into Spanish.
The ceremony then turned boisterous and jubilant as each of the 76 members of the class were called forward by Terri Clark and presented their diplomas by principal Scot Brown and members of the school board.