SILOAM SPRINGS -- The journey started in 2011 when a small group of first graders came together at Northside Elementary to form the future Class of 2023. Little by little, others came in from locations near and far, effectually forming the 42 members that took the short walk across the stage, ending one journey and beginning another.
The senior class came together one final time Friday night for the Decatur High School Class of 2023 commencement ceremony in the Cathedral of the Ozarks on the John Brown University campus in Siloam Springs.
Because of a wreck on Arkansas Highway 59 between Decatur and the Simmons processing plant that had southbound traffic backed up for about a half mile, the ceremony was delayed 15 minutes to allow time for those delayed to arrive at the graduation site.
The cathedral was packed with family, friends, and faculty supporting the Class of 2023. Then it was time for the event these young people had been awaiting, their moment in the spotlight.
The Decatur High School band opened the ceremony with British composer Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance," the traditional graduation march composed in 1901 and used during the 1902 coronation of Kind Edward the Seventh.
As the audience rose to its feet in honor of the senior class, co-valedictorians Deegan Brooks and Jacey Smith led one graduate candidate line and salutatorian Caden Owens and honor student Abbie Davis led the other. Once in place, the proceedings began with the national anthem performed by the band, followed by the pledge of allegiance led by Davis.
After the welcoming address by Superintendent Steven Watkins, Owens delivered the salutatorian address, followed by the valedictorian addresses by Deegan Brooks and Jacey Smith.
Along with the slideshow that showcases each senior throughout his or her life, the presentation of roses has become an integral part of the graduation ceremony. Each candidate is given eight white roses to present to family, friends, and teachers who have played a pivotal role in their lives. Most of these flowers were given to mothers, fathers, and siblings, while teachers and mentors like Daniel Meyers also received roses.
Then the moment was at hand as the seniors returned to their seats in anticipation of the event they had been waiting for, the presentation of diplomas.
While high school principal Toby Conrad read the candidates' names, each walked across the stage and received a diploma presented by school board members Kevin Smith, Darleen Holly, Amy Brooks, Ike Owens, and Karen Davis.
After the graduates moved their tassels from right to left, marking their graduation complete, Watkins took the podium to deliver the words every graduate had waited to hear.
"Having met the requirements of the State of Arkansas and the Decatur School District," Watkins said, "it is my honor to present to you the Decatur High School graduating class of 2023."
With these words, caps filled the air as the 2023 Decatur High School celebrated.