Only four-thousandths of a point separated Lonedell School’s Class of 2012 valedictorian and salutatorian as far as grade point average is concerned.
Bailey Womble and Stephen George, as valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, led their 29 eighth-grade classmates through graduation exercises on Saturday afternoon as the R-XIV school district conducted the ceremony for the first time in its new gymnasium.
The 31 graduates equal the number who received diplomas the year before.
“Growing up with an eighth-grade class like mine was a great experience,” Womble said as she spoke during Saturday’s commencement. “Together, we have gone through good and bad.”
She then went on to thank her friends and family, “but most importantly my teachers who not only taught me my education but life lessons.
“It’s an honor to be valedictorian and to be a part of the 2012 eighth-grade class,” she said.
George had a few more words to say than Womble, but his message was similar.
“Today is a really special day for all of us graduates and for our teachers and faculty who helped guide us on this long and incredible journey that we will end here today,” he said. “My time at Lonedell has been wonderful. I have always liked how the teachers and faculty were always willing to help and were always there for us. For that I thank you.
“My fellow graduates, I am proud to have been on this journey with you. Most of us have been together since kindergarten, but some have joined us along the way. We have had some great times this year and maybe we’ve had some tough times. But we did it. We succeeded. We are ready for the next chapter in our lives.
“It is a great honor to be the salutatorian of this class. To get here took hard work, dedication and determination. It also took a lot of support. For that, I would like to thank my parents and family as well as my classmates and the faculty.”
George also interjected a little humor into his remarks.
“Graduates, you should know that your parents are very proud of you,” he said. “They have high hopes for you. They believe in you. ... Today is an important day for you and them. Today they are very, very proud of you. Today would be a good day to ask for money.”
Womble and George were the top two students academically at Lonedell, but the school also recognized three more who make up the top five. Abby Ruck, Mary York and Hannah Dierker rounded out that group.
The commencement exercises also included several awards as each eighth-grade teacher recognized students who excelled in their classrooms during the year. In addition, Haley Krouper earned the citizenship award.
The ceremony also included a video presentation that featured the graduates, the reciting of the class poem, a welcome by Superintendent Fred VanBibber and an address from Principal Jen Ulrich.
“Today is a pivotal day for the fine young people on the stage this evening,” Ulrich said. “They are closing a big chapter of their life and are about to begin a new one called high school... When I look at this group of students, I am truly overcome with pride. We are about to send the best of the best from the hallways of Lonedell into the hallways of St. Clair and Grandview high schools.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these students. I am not only proud of their academic performance in the classroom, but I’m proud of their character and leadership qualities as well.”
Later in her speech, Ulrich quotes her “all-time favorite coach.”
“My last piece of advice to our graduates comes from John Wooden,” she said. “It was something that his father said to him as he was a young man going off to college, so I will share it with you as you enter high school.
“‘Remember that you are just as good as anybody, but never forget you are no better than anybody either.’ This piece of advice means that you can do and be whatever you want if you work hard and put your mind to it. You are capable of great things, but remain humble, don’t ever look down on anyone and help others along the way. I know that this class of kids wrote the book on that, and I feel like that will be an easy task for them.
“So graduates, I am very proud of you and very impressed with you as individuals and as a group. I couldn’t ask for a better group of representatives for our district. I know you will make us all proud. Please continue to work hard, remain humble, celebrate others people’s success and your own will come.”
Lonedell’s Class of 2012 graduates are Emilee Breidenbach, Briar Broeker, Gage Cowin, Jacob Dickinson, Dierker, Charles Dingley, Erin Friend, Destiny Gabbard, George, Katelyn Guehne, Dawson Hoffman, Justin Hogue, Colton Huddleston, Gabrielle Jones, Korey Johnson, Ethan Koenig, Krouper, Paige Lawson, Megan Leuthauser, Bradey Lindsey, Justin Long, Andrew Malin, Thomas Maple, Sara Noble, Chelsea Pickett, Craig Pursely, Ruck, Gabrielle Watson, Brennah Whitaker, Womble and York.