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Oak Ridge High School honors 19 graduates

Reagan Froemsdorf (left) and Jiliyan Hobeck (right) were named the salutatorian and valedictorian of Oak Ridge High School’s class of 2022. Photo by Jay Forness

Oak Ridge High School celebrated 19 seniors graduating as part of the class of 2022 during its commencement ceremony on Friday, May 13, in the school’s multipurpose gym.

In addition to the graduates, the class honored Wyatt Barry with an empty chair among the graduates. Barry, who died on June 11, 2021, would have graduated with the class of 2022.

Superintendent Bethany Deal, who finished her first year with the district, said meeting this class has been the most rewarding part of her time at Oak Ridge. “It has been a joy to get to know these kids,” Deal said. “This senior class has been a lot of fun”

Jiliyan Hobeck was named valedictorian and Reagan Froemsdorf was named salutatorian of the class of 2022.

Hobeck thanked everyone in attendance for supporting the class throughout their lives. “Because of your constant love, we made it to where we are right now,” she said.

“Some people say this starts the beginning of our journey, but I disagree,” Hobeck said. “I believe our journeys started a long time ago. Today just happens to be the day our journey splits into 19 different ones.”

Hobeck said nearly all of the graduates started in the same preschool class at Oak Ridge, spending eight hours a day together for most of the past 13 years. She encouraged her fellow graduates to make the best of the path before them.

Froemsdorf highlighted the class’ competitive nature and love of playing card games together. He said the entire class has memories that willlast a lifetime.

“This is the final chapter in our high school journey but not the final chapter in our lives,” Froemsdorf said. “I think I can safely speak for my fellow classmates that we will all remember Oak Ridge.”

Julie Ward, who has worked for Oak Ridge for the past three years and was one of the senior class sponsors, provided the commencement speech. Ward serves as a teacher, the athletic director and the volleyball coach at Oak Ridge High School.

Despite meeting the graduates three years ago, Ward said the impact that this class has had on her life has been more than most people she’s known her entire life. “You have made a lasting impression in my life that I will always carry,” she said. “I wish you all the best luck in whatever you decide to do.”

Ward advised the graduates to take care of themselves, live in the moment, make sure to network and make new friends, have fun and always remember their time at Oak Ridge.

“Never forget where you came from,” Ward said. “Never forget the three minutes you had between classes, your favorite teachers, your least favorite teachers, your lunchroom conversations, big wins and those tough losses.”

The 19 graduates earned a combined $97,800 in college scholarships to use for their future education, in addition to many students completing the A+ program.

The school also recognized three retiring staff members during the graduation ceremony. Instructional assistant Sharon Bodenschatz retired after 37 years working in the district, sixth grade teacher Kim Keller retired after teaching for the district for the past 27 years and Nancy Hahs retired as a maintenance worker after working in the district for 23 years in various roles.

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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