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Jackson High School graduates class of 2021

Jackson High School held its graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 21, at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.

Jackson High School honored 385 graduates in the class of 2021 on Friday, May 21, at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. Due to COVID-19, attendance was limited to eight tickets per graduate.

The class was one of the most successful in Jackson history, despite having a high school experience unlike any other class at Jackson High School.

Winston Pais was named valedictorian of the JHS Class of 2021 during the graduation ceremony held on May 21.

The graduates were the last freshman class to attend Russell Hawkins Junior High School and entered the high school as sophomores along with the Class of 2022. As juniors, these graduates had to finish their school year virtually due to the COVID-19 school closures, and the class faced a senior year with many changes due to the continued pandemic.

“The Class of 2021 has had a very unique high school experience,” JHS Principal Seth Harrell said, adding that several of the students made it to graduation while having to deal with personal tragedies. “This is one of the toughest, most mature groups of seniors that we have had the pleasure of working with,” he said.

Despite their struggles, the class had several historic successes academically and in extracurricular activities. The class was the first in Jackson High School history to win two athletic state championships in the same year and same season.

They also had the most students in school history complete the A+ scholarship program – with 131 students completing a combined 7,015 hours of tutoring over the past four years.

The class was awarded more than $6.1 million in university and academic scholarships, and received an additional $93,925 in local, organizational and business scholarships.

ELA teacher Myriah Miller, who was chosen as this year’s commencement speaker, said the class was bright, talented and dedicated, but “what makes you so special is your love for others.”

Student Body President Mallorie Coffe brought in the United States flag at the JHS Class of 2021 graduation ceremony.

Miller advised the graduates to find something they are passionate about, surround themselves with really good people who love them for who they are and keep moving forward when plans go off track.

“The biggest lesson I have learned in my 28 years on this Earth is that you cannot control everything that’s going to happen to you, and believe it or not – that’s OK,” Miller said. “Life is all about learning to be flexible to change and to grow.”

Winston Pais was announced as the Class of 2021 valedictorian with a GPA of 12.38, and Noah Sparks was named salutatorian with a GPA of 12.35.

Thirteen graduates – Steeler Bass, Travis Bierschwal, MaKiah Christeson, Juliana Evans, Logan Fischer, Devin Groves, Kaden Jackson, Jonathan Long, Michael Morgan, Grant Schaefer, Matthew Stroder, Abbigayle Winkler and Tyler Wright – were recognized for joining the military after graduation.

Sarah Brandenburgh, Rebecca Durbin, Lydia Huckstep and Jason Maloney were recognized for their near-perfect attendance, each having missed two or fewer days.

Click here to view more photos from Jackson High School’s graduation.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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