Grain Valley High School (GVHS) celebrated its 320 graduates during a commencement ceremony at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence on May 26th.
The school’s 113th commencement was another demonstration of life returning to normal following a school year impacted by COVID-19. The class of 2021 endured continual change due to the pandemic, from virtual and hybrid schedules to the return of full in-person instruction, to canceled and then modified events and activities, not to mention the daily impact of social distancing, mask mandates, and quarantines.
Student commencement speaker Hannah Lytle quoted writer Anthony J. D’Angelo in the opening lines of her speech to students:
“Become a student of change. It is the only thing that will remain constant.”
Lytle noted that her class had become “pretty great students of change”, and that the transition they were making together that evening meant a change in the paths each graduate would be taking.
“Our paths up to this point have been paved for us. None of us are going down the same path. We all share this experience, but today, we get to use this experience differently,” Lytle said.
GVHS teacher and coach Pete Carpino was elected by the student body to address the graduating class. Carpino is retiring from education after 32 years, the last 7 in Grain Valley.
Carpino encouraged the graduates to “take care of the little things” in life, as those “little things add up to big things in critical situations”.
“Your life will be a roller coaster…the ups and downs of your life will be so much smoother if the little things are taken care of,” Carpino said.
GVHS Principal Dr. Jeremy Plowman highlighted the accomplishments of the 320 graduates, which included 18 Bright Flight scholars, 69 National Honor Society members, 157 A+ graduates, 32 students receiving athletic scholarships, and first year scholarships totaling $4.11 million. Plowman recognized students graduating with honors and 7 students entering the armed forces after graduation.
Reached for comment before the graduation ceremony, Plowman reflected on this year’s graduating class.
“This class will always be near and dear to my heart. Their junior and senior years were dominated by a pandemic. Yet, they persevered in so many ways. In athletics and activities, Grain Valley moved into the Suburban Conference with some of the most successful schools in the State and have had unprecedented success. Academically, this senior class had National Merit Scholars, a plethora of Bright Flight scholars and some very prestigious scholarships. Their school spirit remained strong when it would have been easy to let it wane,” Plowman said.