By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

JCHS held its 96th annual Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18, in the Ray S. Shoun Memorial Gymnasium before an audience of friends and family.
JCHS Principal Lisa Throop opened the ceremony by remembering Jacob Sluder, who attended Mountain City Elementary through third grade. “Jacob passed away at age sixteen due to an extended illness,” said Throop. “He would have been a member of the Class of 2019.” A moment of silenced was observed for Sluder before Throop introduced special guests including Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Director of Schools, Dr. Stephen Long, Secondary Supervisor, JCHS Assistant Principals Leon Henley, and Marcus Dunham, School Board Chairman Howard Carlton, Board Vice-Chairman Kevin Long, school board members Gary Matheson, Mike Payne, and Jo Ann Reece. Throop also acknowledged Michael Eggers as graduation director and special guests from central office.
“I cannot wait to see what the Class of 2019 will accomplish,” said Throop. “Your determination and love for life will help you accomplish whatever you desire to do.”
Maelea Gaylon, former JCHS Assistant Principal, presented beautiful vocal performance of Humble and Kind before Principal Throop introduced the three 2019 Class Valedictorians: Renie Morrow, Noah Mullen, and Mason Stanley, who each took part in presenting My Resignation Letter, their collaborative graduation speech.
“I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we will all miss something about our time here,” said Noah Mullen. “However, we cannot stay here forever. This is only the start of a long and arduous journey that lies before us. Each of us will follow different paths, but that does not have to mean they diverge forever.”
Valedictorian Renie Morrow continued the stirring speech. “I want all of us to look back on life years from now with the sense of accomplishment to have known life’s passage would come,” she said, “and go just like these four years, and made every moment memorable.”
“Life after high school is full of so much potential for all of us,” said Valedictorian Mason Stanley. “If we ignore the differences we have and focus on the goals we share, we can accomplish miracles. So much about our Earth is left for us to discover and for us to protect.”
Stanley concluded by acknowledging parents, coaches, and teachers. “As we resign from our position here at the high school,” he said, “we accept a more responsible role as adults and here’s to hoping we get it right.”
Dr. Mischelle Simcox challenged the students one last time. “The future is yours,” she said while addressing the graduates. “You are about to start a new and exciting adventure.” She then gave them the following advice: “make the most of your life, live your dreams, follow your passion, stay true to yourself.” Finally, she added, “each of you can be and do anything you want, you just have to believe,” before pronouncing them official graduates of Johnson County High School.
Dr. Stephen Long, Johnson County Schools Secondary Supervisor, and GEAR UP Collaborative Project Director, individually announced the name of each graduates as they accepted their diplomas from school board members and administrators.
Senior student council member, Zach Peake, led the 128-member class in the traditional turning of the tassels before applause roared throughout the Ray S. Shoun Memorial Gymnasium one last time for this batch of seniors, who achieved so much over four years and now enter the world as JCHS graduates.