On Sunday afternoon, the 284 members of the Seymour High School Class of 2016 shared their final moments together before graduating and taking their own paths to success.

No matter where that path leads, it can be traced back to the education they received at SHS and the diploma they worked so hard to earn.

“I do hope that today, while a major milestone in your lives, is not where you peak,” Principal Greg Prange said. “You have much to accomplish in life. Today is a stepping stone you must encounter to get you to the next level. Never stop. Never, ever settle.”

Prange himself graduated from Seymour in 1979.

“I sat right where you are sitting now,” he said. “Little did I know that I would be standing up here 37 years later presiding at your graduation ceremony.”

He advised students to enjoy each and every moment of what comes next.

“We can control many parts of our lives, but one thing we cannot control is time,” he said. “Sometimes the days are long, but the years go by quickly. Life is precious. So is each and every one of you.”

Thirteen students received special recognition during commencement as this year’s Seymour Class Scholars. They were Mollie Borcherding, Chandler Clark, Cameron Deppen, Victoria Ewing, Krista Garza, Mikaela Grout, Lindsey Hume, Kourtland Koester, Hao Li, Krishna Patel, Emilee Pollmann, Carson Regruth and Josiah Rudge.

To qualify for the award, students must complete a minimum of 54 credits and satisfy all of the requirements of the Indiana Academic Honors Diploma. In addition, scholars must earn a minimum of 36 credits in English, mathematics, science, foreign language and social studies, have a weighted grade point average of 4.90 for the 54 credits, and earn a minimum of 11 credits in Advanced Placement courses with no grade lower than a B.

The Seymour Scholars Award was initiated in 2000 as part of the school’s effort to encourage students to pursue strong academic programs in preparation for college.

“I am very proud of this year’s scholars. Not only are they very strong students in the classroom, they are true leaders,” Prange said. “Among them are outstanding competitors, musicians, volunteers and team players. They have great potential for becoming significant leaders in society, and I am confident they will make a positive impact wherever they work and live.”

During the ceremony, Prange took time to acknowledge other people in the audience who played an important role in supporting students and investing in their futures including parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and Seymour Community Schools’ faculty and staff.

Class president Chandler Clark also gave thanks to the people who made an impact on their lives.

“I would like to thank all of you who are here for your contribution in getting us where we are today and helping us blossom into the people that we have become,” Clark said in her welcoming address.

In good times and bad, the class has stood together, she added.

“It has been a pleasure to grow up with this class,” she said. “We’ve had trials and tribulations. We’ve had laughter and tears. We’ve had to learn the hard way. We’ve had to outlast ongoing difficulties. We’ve had to test the limits, and we’ve had to beat the odds.”

This year’s class lost three students in separate car wrecks: Michelle Kiewitt, Aaron Greathouse and Nikson Cribs. A moment of silence was observed in their honor.

Clark said she was excited to see the future success stories that come from the class of 2016.

“Today might mark the end of a wonderful experience but without endings we would never have beginnings,” she said. “We have left an everlasting imprint on Seymour High School as it has done for us as well. But it’s time to move on. It’s time to let go. It’s time to hold on to tomorrow, and it’s time to find out who we are supposed to be.”

Senior Hao Li said he wasn’t sure how he ended up as salutatorian but felt it was an honor to stand and speak before his classmates, teachers and friends.

Like many students, Li said he doesn’t know what his future holds.

“All of us here have the potential and capability to accomplish amazing feats,” he said. “However, many of us still are not sure what we want to do, what kind of person we want to be and where we are going.”

But that’s OK, Li said.

“Getting lost at points of our journey through life is unavoidable,” he said. “The important part is to always keep doing and believing in what we love and enjoy and let our passion be the compass that directs us back on track.”

Valedictorian Lindsey Hume said she considers the Class of 2016 a class of change.

“We are the first class to attend the Sixth Grade Center, one of the first classes to use Chromebooks, experience Power Hour and unfortunately one of the first classes who had to endure the dreaded 4:30 p.m. school release — for not only one year, but two,” she said. “However, these new challenges allowed each of us to learn the importance of adaptation and perseverance, which will be a necessity in the next steps of our life.”

Contrary to what they might believe, students do not know everything, Hume added.

“We are all lifelong learners and each new lesson that we learn adds to our life foundation,” she said.

Over time, learning has led to the development of each student’s academic drive and love of knowledge, she added.

“The result of our learning has led to our individuality and success in school,” she said. “High school has taught us many lessons from how to study, how to manage our personal finances and how to be responsible. Finally, our education has resulted in growth in areas such as leadership, creativity and community service.

“As we leave high school, we will continue to learn,” she added. “Together, we have completed the foundation of our education and have begun our steps to success. Tomorrow, we begin our new life journeys.”

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.