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Oak Ridge High School honors 21 graduates

Oak Ridge graduate Mason Keith raises his hands as the graduates entered the multipurpose gym for the commencement ceremony. Photos by Jay Forness

Oak Ridge High School celebrated the 21 seniors graduating as part of the Class of 2021 during its commencement ceremony on Friday, May 7, in the school’s multipurpose gym.

Superintendent Adrian Eftink said this was a class of good kids who didn’t get in trouble much. “They were either very good at getting away with things or they were very confidential in their conversations amongst each other,” he said.

Eftink wished the graduates good luck in their future endeavors and reminded them that they will always have a home as alumni of Oak Ridge.

“I want to thank each one of you for the things that you have done while I was superintendent,” Eftink said to the class. “I look out and see persistence and the faces of quiet leadership.”

Robert Friese, a social studies teacher at the high school, gave the commencement speech. He had the Oak Ridge alumni in the audience stand up to show the graduates the fraternity of graduates they were joining.

“When we look through history, there have been many remarkable people that have accomplished remarkable things,” Friese said. “These people would not have been able to accomplish these goals without the help of others. Listen to the advice of your peers, your elders and people who have been through the trenches.”

Oak Ridge Salutatorian Bailey Urhahn, left, and Valedictorian Erin Grayhek at Oak Ridge’s graduation on May 7.

Friese said people will genuinely try to help them, so they should not let pride get in their way. He reminded them to always remember where they came from and to give back to their community in some way.

Erin Grayhek was named valedictorian of the class of 2021, while Bailey Urhahn was named salutatorian.

Grayhek said some of the graduates were getting back into reading, especially with the Harry Potter books. She said that in the grand scheme of things, every graduate is writing their own books filled with their lives.

“We have all put our values in our own books, and each one of our books show who we truly are,” Grayhek said to her fellow graduates. “After tonight, though, the remaining pages are blank.”

Grayhek said the pen is in each of the graduate’s hand, and that they shouldn’t worry about messing up. “The best books are not about perfection, but the stories we all remember are about overcoming failure,” she said.

She said that turning the page will lead them to all going in their own direction and beginning a new journey. “Unlike our reading in English class, we cannot read ahead or skip to the end of the story to see what is going to happen,” Grayhek said. “As we continue to learn and grow, we will continue to change and our stories can all become bestsellers.”

Urhahn spoke about the memories this class share at Oak Ridge, starting when 13 of them began kindergarten together 13 years ago. She also said that while this has been a difficult year, dealing with COVID-19 and having some senior events canceled, that doesn’t erase the other 12 years of school they experienced.

“Our memories will live on forever,” Urhahn said. “They live in every hallway and classroom of the school. In 20 years, they will come alive again whenever we tell them to our children – just as our parents and grandparents have told us through the years.”

Urhahn said she is proud to have made it to graduation day and even prouder to leave graduation with the memories and pride of being a member of the class of 2021.

In addition to the graduates, retiring high school math teacher Tammy Hunt was also recognized during commencement. Hunt has worked in the district since 2004.

Click here to view more photos from Oak Ridge’s graduation.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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