JOPLIN — The tassel proved to be worth the hassle for 330 Neosho High School students who graduated in commencement ceremonies Thursday evening at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center on the campus of Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.

JOPLIN — The tassel proved to be worth the hassle for 330 Neosho High School students who graduated in commencement ceremonies Thursday evening at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center on the campus of Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.

The slogan is used district wide from elementary grades onward to encourage students to work hard and stay in school through graduation. Following tradition, students moved the tassel attached to their caps from right to left as directed, near the end of the ceremonies signifying that they had graduated.

The school board, administration, faculty members and the graduating class filed into the venue with music provided by the Neosho High School Band and directed by Dan Duffield, Director of Bands. Following the processional and pledge of allegiance, senior band members joined their peers for their last performance.

Ceremonies got under way with a welcome from Neosho Superintendent of Schools, Dan Decker. Decker told those assembled, "On behalf of the Neosho School District, I would like to welcome you to the graduation of the class of 2017."

Decker also introduced the commencement speaker. Chad Thomas, a social sciences teacher at Neosho High School, was chosen by the senior class to speak at graduation.

"Thank you for the honor of speaking to you this evening," Thomas said as he began his speech. "I promise I will keep it brief."

Thomas shared his process in deciding what to speak about. "I decided everything I wanted to share with you, you probably learned a long time ago."

As the father of two sons, 10-month old Lincoln and three-year-old Landon, Thomas decided he would share lessons learned by his older son.

"My theme is eight lessons from my son, Landon, to the class of 2017."

He cited eight lessons: be thankful, be loving, be imaginative and dream big, be hopeful and aspiring, be caring, be daring, be wise and be spiritual. For each, Thomas listed a brief anecdote about his son and offered a quotation from noteworthy individuals. He encouraged the students to include the last lesson, be spiritual, in their daily lives.

"Two verses come to my mind when I'm struggling with something in life," Thomas told the students. "Proverbs 3:5-6, trust in the Lord with all your heart. And lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight, and Jeremiah 20:11, For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

"If you take Landon's lessons and rearrange them, it makes an acronym," Thomas said. "W is for wisdom, I is for imaginative, L is for learning, D is for daring, C is for caring, A is for aspiring, T is for thankful, and S for spiritual." The acronym stood for Wildcats, the Neosho High School mascot.

"You, the class of 2017 are, were, and will always be Wildcats," Thomas said in his closing remarks.

Graduating seniors wore black caps and gowns trimmed in gold, the NHS colors. National honor society members also wore white stoles while gold cords indicated students who earned Magna Cum Laude honors. Blue cords were worn for students who graduated Summa Cum Laude and silver by students who earned a Cum Laude ranking. Seniors who participated in the Neosho Honors Academy wore purple cords. Students who earned an Honors diploma or were A+ students were designated in the program.

Heather Hughes, guidance counselor for the Class of 2017, read the graduates names as members of the Neosho Board of Education handed out diplomas.

A large crowd gathered within the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center to cheer their graduates during graduation and others waited outside.

Graduation congratulations to the Neosho High School class of 2017!