Thousands of parents and friends packed Mustang Stadium as 215 seniors received diplomas Sunday afternoon.

ANDERSON — Thousands of parents and friends packed Mustang Stadium as 215 seniors received diplomas Sunday afternoon.

And for the commencement speaker, the district looked to one of their own: Kim Harrell, principal at McDonald County High School and a 1980 MCHS graduate.

In introducing Harrell, McDonald County R-1 Superintendent Dr. Mark Stanton mentioned his associate’s degree from Crowder College, his bachelor’s in education from Missouri Southern State University and his master’s of education from Missouri State University.

But Stanton also mentioned the path Harrell took to become MCHS principal: his 29 years of experience in the R-1 district, including stints as a social studies teacher, a coach, a K-8 principal, coordinator of the district’s at-risk program, athletic director, and assistant principal before taking the leadership role.

“According to the program, I give a talk, a group sings, and I give out diplomas,” Harrell joked with the seniors. “And you all are wanting me to hurry this along, aren’t you? It’s kind of ironic, the last few years, I’ve been the guy to get you to hurry up and do things.”

Harrell laid out his keys to a happy life for the seniors: love, service, and confidence.

“Make sure your house has love in it,” he said. “A big mansion without love in it is a prison. And you need a loving spouse to go through the hard times with you. You may want a job that pays you a lot of money, but you need a job that pays in a number of ways. Know the difference between what a want is and what a need is.”
Another key is to serve someone or something besides themselves.

“All of us can serve,” he said. “Some of us serve through their occupation: for some, it’s the medical field, for some, they serve through education. You can serve by helping a neighbor, being a Little League coach, or a football coach or a volunteer fireman. Find a way to help your community and help yourself.

“And last, do not be afraid to fail, because you will. Nothing good ever comes easily. And remember where you’re from and be proud of who you are.”

The top 10 seniors were also recognized during commencement. They are: Sarah Elizabeth Rickman, valedictorian; Drey Furious Fickle, salutatorian; Kylie Jo Ehlers, Zoe Opal Ellis, Rachel Chelyanne Henedy, Jantsen Hunter Lynn, Whitney Nicole Malone, Jennifer Echo Murphy, Khaylea Brooke Owens and Eliza Kay Smith.

Valedictorian Rickman told her fellow classmates to keep a positive outlook through life’s challenges.
“If you don’t succeed, try again,” she said.

Special music was provided by the Senior Choir, while Dr. Scott Goldstein, school board president, accepted the class and Emmaleigh Jones, class president, presented the diplomas.

And as the strains of Trace Adkins’ hit “You’re Gonna Miss This,” wafted through the air, the newly minted graduates took to the football field for the traditional mortarboard toss.