Full LHS graduating class

Louisiana’s 2021 graduating class stand ready for the conclusion of the ceremony. Photo by Tasha Kellison

LOUISIANA—The graduating class for Louisiana High School gathered in the school’s gymnasium May 14 to receive their diplomas. From the smiles on their faces and those of their families, this was a welcome event considering last year’s graduates could not have an in-person ceremony because of the pandemic.

But only a limited number of people were allowed to attend the ceremony, and because of that, the graduation was live-streamed on YouTube for those who could not attend in person.

Superintendent Todd Smith welcomed those who came to celebrate the graduation of the 2021 Louisiana High School class. He thanked KJFM Radio for doing the live-streaming.

“It’s been a very helpful tool to be able to reach the people who could not be here,” Smith said. He also thanked the faculty, staff, administration and the entire district for their fearless dedication to the kids of Louisiana.” He included the school board and the entire community in his thanks, because it took the effort of everyone to have such a successful school year with the culmination of the graduation ceremony. 

“We all came together to make it happen for the kids,” he said.

The Salutatorian for the graduating class was Ryleigh Austin and the Valedictorian was Rachel Beard.

Beard spoke about what her class has endured over the four years they were in high school. She noted the strain that the last 18 months has had on everyone, including her fellow classmates.

“We have gone through some difficult times, but we have come out on top,” she said. Having goals for one’s life is what makes getting through hard times possible, she explained. And as they grow and mature, their goals would naturally change with them, she added, about her class. Just having those goals could push them to do some pretty great things.

“I know the class of 2021 is going to do some pretty amazing things throughout their lives,” Beard said.

She also thanked Smith, Principal Nick Heggemann, counselor Lisa Leake, the school administration teachers and the cafeteria staff for always making sure the students had something to eat. She included the custodial staff, as well, for keeping the students safe during difficult times.

She also thanked her fellow students and the families of those students for all their support over the years.

Beard congratulated her class for their accomplishment of graduating.

Austin addressed the audience, as well. She said her class truly pushed for success regardless of the circumstances they faced. Austin noted that the pandemic took away the last quarter of their junior year in high school, “and all the normalcy during our senior year.”

Having to do classes online was a real learning experience, she noted.

“And, honestly, it sucked,” she said. Regardless, they made it to graduation.

She, too, thanked all those who have helped her and her class to get to this point in their lives. But she also wanted to share some of the funny incidents that have occurred to over the years. She said she wore cat ears until she was in first grade.

“I guarantee that I would still be wearing them if (her teacher) had not yelled at me for wearing them.” Her favorite memory, she said, was the Uno addiction she shared with her friends from their sophomore year on. She noted that they played the game constantly over the years.

Austin’s advice to her classmates: “We do not know what kind of challenges life will throw our way, but we can overcome them.” She implored them to remember the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If you cannot fly, then run. If you cannot run, then walk. If you cannot walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

Another important piece of advice Beard had was—“Do not commit tax fraud.”

Heggemann then presented the class of 2021, and asked them to come forward when called to receive their diplomas.

Once they had their diplomas, the graduating class moved their tassels from the right to the left of their mortarboard to signify their graduation from high school. A huge cheer went up from the audience as the graduates turned to face their families.

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