Sparta High School holds in-person, social-distanced graduation ceremony; Gov. Parson speaks

SPARTA, Mo. (KY3) -- Sparta High School seniors had a chance to walk across the graduation stage Thursday night in one of the few in-person graduation ceremonies being held in the Ozarks this school year.

The ceremony was held inside of the gym here at Sparta High School with limited access. Students told KY3 as they were walking inside the school how lucky they felt to have a ceremony at all.

44 students walked across the stage to pick up their diplomas Thursday.

"We're really blessed to actually have a real graduation," said Sparta graduate Lofton Atchley.

"I was excited at least crossing the stage," said another graduate,John Corless. "My family, they were very excited because they did not want to just to drive-thru and then go home and celebrate, they wanted to actually do it."

The school limited those who could come in, requiring a ticket and social distancing families across the bleachers in assigned sections.

"Part of me is excited that we actually get to have people come in and see the graduation, the other part of me, you know the selfish part is like 'oh, well not everyone gets to see us graduate," said Atchley. "But, I'm still very grateful that we actually get to have one.

For one graduate, her family member was center stage.

"When he joins us here at Sparta, he's Gramps," said the district superintendent Rocky Valentine in his introduction of Gov. Mike Parson.

Gov. Parson was the keynote speaker for the graduation ceremony. His speech focused on reminding students to remember their senior year for what they accomplished, not for how it was cut short.

"2020 will never be about the coronavirus, so just set that off to the side, that's not what we're going to remember 2020 about," the Governor said. "I'm going to tell you what 2020 will be remembered by, it will be remembered as the launch pad for you. It will be the launch pad for what you're going to do in your career and your lives."

Although different from years before, students say they feel lucky to get the closure seniors before them were able to have.

Students said it was nice to see their peers after finishing up the school year at home. Many other schools are doing drive-in or virtual styled ceremonies this year instead.