Free State High School graduates special in many ways, speakers say

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Free State High School seniors participate in the school's graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

As he lined up Wednesday with his Free State High School classmates minutes before their commencement procession in Allen Fieldhouse, Oliver Kapfer was momentarily stumped when asked what made the school’s class of 2019 special.

“Me,” he finally answered. “It’s special to me because this is my class.”

Kapfer, who plans to attend Johnson County Community College next fall, added that his friends, especially those he made on the Free State soccer team, were what made his high school years special.

Nearby, Richa Joshi, wearing adornments signifying her as a member of the National Honor Society, agreed that the people were key to the FSHS experience.

“It was all my friends and classmates and the teachers,” said Joshi, who will attend the University of Kansas to study biochemistry and pre-medicine. “There were so many wonderful people.”

During the commencement, FSHS Principal Myron Graber, Lawrence Superintendent Anthony Lewis and School Board President Jessica Beeson would all add their opinions of what was special about the class of 2019.

With 451 graduates, Graber said, the class was the largest in FSHS history. It was also distinguished academically, he said, with 22 valedictorians who graduated with perfect 4.0 grade point averages.

Beeson said the 2019 class held special significance for her because her son, who attended Lawrence High School, graduated this year, as well. That gave her an understanding of the obstacles and achievements the Firebird class had experienced, she said.

Lewis said the class was special because it was the first FSHS class to graduate since he became district superintendent in July 2018. On a more serious note, the superintendent said graduation marked the start of the students’ adult life, and he urged them to keep striving to learn.

“Keep peeking to see what is around the next corner,” he said.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Free State High School Principal Myron Graber participates in the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Superintendent Anthony Lewis addresses the graduating class at Free State High School’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The graduation speakers from the class of 2019 had some wisdom to share with their peers, as well.

Ella Keathley, who plans to attend the University of Kansas next year, encouraged her classmates to cherish the memories they made and shared during their four years as Firebirds.

“I would like to encourage everyone to celebrate the little things we experienced in the past 1,371 days,” she said. “They went by very quickly, and I’m sure the next 1,371 days will fly by, too.”

In her speech, Ruth Gathunguri, who will attend Johnson County Community College next year, said the class arrived at Free State a bit intimidated, but that she and her peers found their places as they learned, achieved and bonded. Her parting remarks, she said, paraphrased the poet Maya Angelou: “Be special, be responsible and be proud Firebirds.”

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Free State High School senior Ruth Gathunguri speaks to the Class of 2019 at the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Free State High School senior Brenna Brown participates in the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Lawrence school board member Shannon Kimball watches Free State High School graduates walk across the basketball court at Allen Fieldhouse during the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Free State High School seniors Helena and Thomas All participate in the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Free State High School senior Jaclyn Black participates in the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Free State High School educators participate in the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Free State High School senior Oscar Haro participates in the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

A Free State High School senior wears a decorated graduation cap in the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Free State High School senior Maxwell Lillich participates in the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Free State High School seniors participate in the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

A Free State High School teacher hands a student a valedictorian medal at the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Free State High School senior Devin Beers participates in the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Free State High School seniors participate in the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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