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Jackson’s Class of 2018 graduates Friday night

The Jackson High School Class of 2018 celebrated their high school years and the start of the next phase of their lives on Friday night at the Show-Me Center.

Superintendent Dr. John Link said commencement is defined as a beginning or a start, and he advised the 367 graduates to look at their graduation ceremony that way. While some may already have their lives planned out, Link said that was not the case for him 35 years ago when he was in their position.

“You don’t have to have it all figured out,” Link said. “I also want to tell you that in time, the stars will align and you will discover your ‘why’ and your purpose. My hope is that, somewhere along your way in your journey, we have given you the right skills to think, to create, to communicate, to learn and to succeed.”

After 16 years of writing graduation speeches, Link said he had trouble finding the right words for this class. He said it took five different drafts because “this class is a little different.”

Link commended the class for motivating him to be a better person through their actions. He attributed their success to caring for others more than themselves, loving what they do, their service to their community and their courage when facing adversity.

“Today’s youth will be tomorrow’s leaders, and we are all in great hands,” Link said.

Graduates were recognized for student leadership, academic achievements through honor cords and previously unannounced local scholarships.  In the class, 105 students successfully completed the A+ program, providing a combined 6,851 tutoring hours for the Jackson R-2 School District over the past four years.

An additional 19 graduates received a standing ovation for their commitment to join a military service after graduating.

Benjamin Krewson was announced as valedictorian, with a GPA of 12.08. Krewson will attend the University of Missouri in Columbia, majoring in pure math and physics.  Lexie Clements was announced as salutatorian with a GPA of 12.0. Clements will attend Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar and plans to major in physical therapy.

The senior steering committee chose choir teacher Beth St. John as their commencement speaker. St. John, who lost her husband six months ago, told the graduates to make sure to leave a lasting impact in the time they have. She spoke about working hard and not being afraid of failure.

“I’m not worried that you won’t be successful in life,” St. John said. “I’m worried that you won’t fail from time to time in order to grow. So when failure happens, learn from it and then move forward.”

St. John advised the graduates to challenge themselves daily, never give up, help others and find the real joy in life. She said she hopes each student does more than just make money.

“[Money] can certainly make life easier, but you can not take it with you,” St. John said. “It doesn’t matter how much you have, it’s what you do with what you have.”

She said the last six months have been the hardest in her life, but she can still smile because of all the memories she has of her husband. She told the students to look around at their classmates and smile about the memories they have shared.

St. John left the graduates with her new motto — “You make your own sunshine, and it’s all up to you.”

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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