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JHS holds modified graduation for seniors

Jackson High School held its graduation ceremony on Friday, June 19, with several changes to make the event safe for students and family members in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event was held at the high school’s football stadium and graduates were limited to four guests in attendance. The commencement was also live-streamed on the district’s YouTube page for those unable to be at the event in person.

“This graduation ceremony is our most important event,” Principal Seth Harrell said. “This is our last opportunity to celebrate the success of our graduating seniors.” Harrell added that they were extremely appreciative to be able to hold the event and “put the finishing touch on a great educational career for these young ladies and gentlemen.”

Graduates were held in the old gym and came out in smaller groups to get their diplomas. After all seniors walked across the stage, they stepped outside in a cloud of smoke and were announced by “The Voice of the Pit” Dan Stover.

While “Pomp and Circumstance” played, the graduates marched around the stadium to see their families before stepping onto the football field. Around 330 graduates filled the field, spread across each five-yard line to make sure they were a safe distance from each other.

Chris Krewson was announced as valedictorian and Reagan Peters was announced as salutatorian. Harrell said they had two of the highest GPAs of the past few years, with only 0.013 of a grade point dividing them.

Jacob Cantoni and Allison Smith were also honored during the ceremony for having perfect attendance throughout high school.

While on the field, graduates heard a commencement speech from JHS history teacher Mike Tornetto. Tornetto said in February, he talked to his students about how their generation had not been defined by a specific event in history.

“What I didn’t know was that three weeks later, that unexpected event would rear its ugly head,” Tornetto said. “I had no idea that a virus called COVID-19 would cause those very seniors to lose the remainder of their senior year to something called ‘social distancing’ or that they would struggle with the loss of all those special senior traditions.”

He told the graduates that this situation was not fair, but meaning could be drawn from this experience. Tornetto spoke about other generations who graduated into the Great Depression or went on to fight in various wars.

“I think it is essential to remind ourselves that those generations who came before you were not defined by the challenges they faced, as much as they were defined by how they responded to those particular challenges,” he said.

Tornetto advised the graduates to tackle their challenges head on and accomplish great things. He added that this will not be the last challenge in their life, and he hopes this particular challenge will shape them and make them better.

During the ceremony, a new JHS insignia was shown. The insignia, which was conceived by the student council and created by student-body president Alice Mansell, will be another way for the Class of 2020 to leave their mark on the school.

“We wanted a symbol that represented what it meant to be a Jackson High School student and, ultimately, what it meant to be from this great community,” Harrell said. “We hope that this symbol will be a representation of our high school for many years to come.”

Senior choir members, who sang the national anthem at the beginning of the graduation, ended the ceremony by singing the Jackson High School Alma Mater.

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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