Speeches from the 2021 Graduation Ceremony
Taite Woolsey, Gracie Vontz, Mrs. Brenda Breth
Welcome and Introductions:
Parents, grandparents, family, friends, students, teachers, school board members, and especially the Class of 2021, welcome to the 118th commencement exercises of Decatur Community High School.
It is an honor to stand before you today as the principal of DCHS. It’s been quite a year, one none of us will soon forget. In spite of covid, masks, quarantines, CDC recommendations, KSHSAA guidelines, differing opinions on masks, the CDC recommendations, KSHSAA guidelines; vaccines, the election, so many conflicts and opinions, our students -- led by this extraordinary class -- endured it all, without complaining (too much) and without malice. They did what I, their parents, this school, and higher powers expected and asked of them -- again and again and again -- which has led us all to this moment in time - Graduation Day.
You did it! And I couldn’t be prouder of every single one of you. This is your day, your moment. Congratulations!
This year’s salutatorian is an extraordinary young lady. She is kind, caring, talented -- and of course, smart -- otherwise, she wouldn’t be finishing second in her class. She is hard working, dependable, dedicated. She is the daughter of Terese and Greg Vontz -- as well as a granddaughter, niece, big sister, little sister, aunt, friend. She is a CNA, a lifeguard, a volleyball player, a DCHS Singer, the yearbook editor, the senior class president, the National Honor Society president, and the Student Council vice president. You know her as Gracie Vontz, but to me she is Gracie Lou Freebush Voritz Vontz. This year’s salutatorian -- Gracie Lou…..
This year’s valedictorian tried to leave us but couldn’t stay away. Thank goodness! He is witty, a snappy dresser, crazy smart, funny, an out-of-the box thinker who likes numbers and accounting. He is kind and talented. He stands up for the underdog and stands firmly in his beliefs and values. He is a football player, a basketball player, a DCHS Singer, and Jack Kelley in this year’s musical. He is the son of two DCHS graduates - two of mine -- Tucker and Tonya Woolsey. This year’s Valedictorian is Taite Woolsey.
A while back Gavon was sitting in English class and out of the blue he said, “Mrs. Breth, I wonder what you will say about me at graduation.” Gavon, what are you talking about? “Well last year, you talked about each of the graduates, and I was just wondering what you were going to say about me.” Leave it to Gavon!
For those of you who don’t know me, I have a unique position. Not only am I the principal, but the school board also lets me continue to do what I truly love -- which is teach. Every day, I get to leave my office, go upstairs to my classroom -- my happy place -- and spend time with these incredible people -- every day. And it’s truly the best part of my day. If I had to choose between being principal -- and all the fame and money that go with that job-- and teaching, I would choose teaching every time. I would choose these kids every time. Not every principal gets to know their students like I do; through their writings and our discussions, I know them as incredible individuals, and I will be forever grateful to the school board for not taking that privilege away from me.
I hadn’t even thought about this speech or if I were going to do the same thing as last year and talk about each graduate, but then the pressure was on thanks to Gavon, so here it goes:
Starting with Sarah Abernathy -- you my dear, sweet girl -- are sunshine on a cloudy day. You are positive always, you are kind always, you think of others first always. Your faith in God is incredible, and you make me a better person every day. Love you, sweet girl. Don’t ever lose your sunshine.
Gage Van Meter - I am so incredibly proud of you. You could have given up, but you didn’t. You dug your heels in and you did it. You have an incredible family surrounding you and some pretty incredible friends who care about you -- don’t ever forget that. Your tenacity, your stubbornness, and your good heart will serve you well. Good luck, kiddo. Love you.
Mackenzie Urban - I firmly believe that God put you on this earth to care for others -- after all-- you get excited about blood and guts! BUT you have such a big heart and find the good in people. Plus you evidently don’t need much sleep, so that will serve you well in nursing school -- and/or med school. Don’t you ever stop smiling -- or whistle talking -- no matter what Mr. Williams says. Love you!
Josh Russ -- I hope you have figured out by now that I don’t hate you. You are crazy talented, and your constant doodling and drawing will serve you well in your line of work. But you are also crazy smart, and I love that you challenge me to look at things differently. You will also go down as the student who has given me thee best compliment ever -- six little words -- “You stick to what you say.” Thank you for that! I will never forget it.
Katie Meitl - Katie Girl -- you did it. You made it. 0 days left! (For those of you who don’t know, Katie has been counting down the days to graduation since August!) You are one of the hardest working students I have ever had. You get things done. You put your mind to something, and you do it. I have no doubt you will achieve your goals -- and damn anyone who gets in your way. Your writing skills are out of this world, and you have been so fun to teach. You have taught this old bird a thing or two, and I thank you. Love you!
Gabe Seller -- a chip off the old block. Let me brag about Gabe for a minute. He has a reading level that is off the charts -- it’s incredible. And every time I ask a question and there is a lull in the room because no one knows the answer or is too afraid to speak -- I can look to Gabe who 9 times out of 10 has the answer. You are an incredible writer, and your wit comes through loud and clear. I hope you let other people read your work some day.
Emma Anderson - you are my spirit animal - a take-charge kind of gal with a good, kind heart. You care about everyone and look out for everyone and never want to disappoint anyone, often times neglecting yourself. You wear your heart on your sleeve. You will forever be tied to Mr. K Breth because of your love for the OSU Cowboys! But don’t forget you will always have people up north who love you too.
Tyler Nichols - if I had an award for the student who has made the biggest gains in nine months, it would go to you. I am so incredibly proud of you. You are a hard-working, family-loving kind of guy, and I know you will accomplish your goals. Love you, Tyler - with the two middle names.
Two middle names -- that’s you too KeLynn Jacobs. You amaze me every single day. You have been through so much, and yet you keep moving forward with a smile on your face. Your work ethic and your kind heart will take you wherever you want to go. You care about people deeply, and you get things done. You are the complete package. Love you, KeLynn.
Hunter May - speaking of kind hearts -- that’s you too Hunter. How many times have you come to me because you were worried about someone else? Many! You are kind and care about people -- plus you have a faith that is admirable. You can move mountains with those qualities. Don’t you ever sell yourself short. You are an amazing person, and I am proud to know you as I do.
Jenavive Zillinger -- I adore your sense of humor and your willingness to be your own person. You stand on your own two feet, and I pity the fool who ever tries to change you. I have a huge amount of love and respect for you, Jenavive Guinevere Zillinger!
Nick Baker - I can’t thank your parents enough for choosing Oberlin. You are a vital part of this class, and I am so thankful for the few years we had you. You are a kind, amazing guy whom I have never heard say a hurtful thing to anyone. Do you have any idea how rare that is? Thank you, Nick Baker, for being you.
Melody Koerperich - I have loved getting to know you this year. I have loved every single minute. You are a gentle spitfire. Now there’s an oxymoron. Most times you would rather stay in the background, but you were born to shine, sweet girl, and when you speak, people listen. God has big plans for you, and I can’t wait to see where He leads you. Love you, Mel.
John Burmaster - John Boy. You are a perfect mix of your parents, and I love that. I love that you love your little sister and aren’t afraid to show it. I love that you aren’t afraid to stand up for what you believe in. I love your honesty and your kind heart and your work ethic. I love you.
Taite Woolsey - I can’t imagine this class without you in it. Your parents are so excited to have you back permanently in Hays. Your grandparents are also so excited to have you back permanently in Hays! Thank you for sharing this year with us. Thank you for challenging me to look at things from a different perspective. You will always have a special place in my heart -- along with all of the Woolseys.
Alana Raile -I am so blessed to know you as I do. You love with your whole heart - your residents at work, your friends, your family. You are gentle and kind. Thank you for being our office aid this year. Melissa and I loved ending our day with you. You are a gentle, soft-spoken incredible person, and I am so proud of you. Love you, ALANA!
Jenna Juenemann - I’ve known you since you were a little girl who lived right across the street from us. Your parents and siblings all have a piece of my heart, but you will always be my Jenna Girl. You are kind to everyone, you love your family with every ounce of your being, and you have an amazing faith. You are who we all should strive to be like. I am a better person and a better teacher for having known you. Love you, sweet girl.
Spencer Wishon -- You are such a kind soul with a huge heart. It’s been a pleasure to watch you grow into a pretty awesome young man. You hate disappointing people and always try to find the good. You put way too much pressure on yourself, which stresses you out, but it also makes you the golfer and person you are. Best of luck at Regionals on Monday. I believe in you -- and I love you.
Honest, bold Hanna Quintana. You stand on your own two feet, and no one is ever going to push you around. You call a spade a spade, and I love that about you. You too will move mountains, and like Jenavive, I pity the fool who gets in your way. Love you.
Alex - You are such a good guy, and I love the person and leader you are. You are genuine, kind, and such a good friend to so many. Those qualities will take you wherever you want to go. I love that you don’t try to be anyone but Alex Eskew. Love you.
Lily - organized, keep-me-on-my toes Hendrickson. Thank you for always being a step ahead of me, for keeping me on track, and for always asking the tough questions. You are incredibly talented, and I am so proud to know you as I do. Love you, Lily Belle.
Gracie Lou Freebush Voritz - you are hardworking, dependable, and always try to do the right thing. I love that about you. You will always be my Gracie Lou Freebush, my Miss Congeniality, the nicest, sweetest, coolest girl with the biggest heart. Love you, Gracie Lou.
And finally Gavon Uehlin -- whose fault it is that this speech is so long. You’ve waited a month and 22 other descriptions for your answer -- what would I say about you? SO SO MUCH! You are the only student who has ever said to me at prom --or at any school event -- “Mrs. Breth, if you need someone to do the welcome or say a prayer, I’m your guy.” You are confident and smart - even though you can’t mult-task -- and kind. I am so very proud of you. You are a born leader and politician, and you will succeed at whatever you decide to do. Love you, Gavon!
Gracie mentioned the bond you 23 share. And she is exactly right - not all classes have that. I will say it again -- I am soooooo proud of each and everyone of you. Thank you for the incredible great year we have had. You have left an indelible mark on this school and on me. I love each of you -- more than you can know.
And now . . . .
USD 294 School board members, these 23 seniors have all met the requirements set forth by the State of Kansas and Unified School District 294. I present to you the DCHS Class of 2021 to receive their diplomas:
Sarah Renea Abernathy
Emma Kay Anderson
Nicholas Wilson Baker
Johnathan Robert Burmaster
Alex Allen Eskew
Lily Mae Hendrickson
KeLynn Elizabeth Mae Jacobs
Jenna Michelle Juenemann
Melody Grace Koerperich
Hunter Andrew May
Katie Diane Meitl
Tyler Duane Robert Nichols
Hanna Kay Quintana
Alana Breann Raile
Joshua James Russ
Gabriel Stosh Seller
Gavon Scott Uehlin
Mackenzie Grace Urban
Gage Daniel Van Meter
Gracie Ann Vontz
Spencer Ryan Wishon
Taite David Woolsey
It’s a proud, glorious day. I would like to thank these students, their parents, Mr. Gehring for making the live streaming possible, Mrs. Tremblay, Mrs. Tally, the choir, the DCHS Singers, Melissa Dreher, Wendy Scott, Ron Jansonius, Kenny Black, Tammy Hawkins, Delbert Russ, school board members, Dr. Applegate, and three seniors for letting us borrow their woodshop projects - Nick Baker, Gavon Uehlin, and John Burmaster, and our ushers -- chosen by the class - Breckyn Jensen, Bryce Peter, Brynna Addleman, Morgan Ketterl, Reece Grafel, and Breckin Sauvage.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, the newest group of DCHS alumni - the class of 2021.