On Thursday, around 280 NHS students became graduates in commencement ceremonies held at the Leggett and Platt Athletic Center on the campus of Missouri Southern State College in Joplin.

Graduates along with their family and friends filled the venue as the Class of 2019 crossed the stage to receive their diplomas in a time honored tradition.

The commencement speaker selected by members of the Neosho High School Student Council was retiring English teacher Kathy Ellison.

"Believe it or not, this is something I've looked forward to doing for quite awhile and I've had my topic chosen for a few years," she said. "I said I would be willing to speak if kids wanted me to - I didn't really think I would get the honor. What I really want to talk to you about is shoes. Yeah, shoes."

Ellison used various types of footwear for career choices and lifestyles, noting that it's all about the type of shoe - figuratively and literally - we choose to wear.

Neosho Board of Education President, Stuart Puckett, a NHS graduate, urged students to consider a return to their hometown, following his example.

"Thirty-two years ago, I was sitting in your seat," he said. "Congratulations. After six years of school and work, I made the decision to move back home, twenty-six years ago. I knew that decision would impact my future, my family's future and I haven't regretted the choice I made for a day in my life."

Puckett, who serves as a senior credit officer at First Community Bank in Neosho is active in many levels of the community. He is also the 2019 President of the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce.

"I made a commitment to this town, Neosho, the place you're graduating from, a place to raise my kids to live and go to school so it would be a place for them that they would want to return to and call home," he told the graduates.

"On this night that is so filled with anticipation and excitement and dreams, I would ask each of you all to consider the choices that you have. You can choose whether or not to continue your education. You can choose whether or not to pursue a career. You can choose who you live with and where you live. The one thing I want you to know is that you're ready to settle down, pursue a career and raise a family, the city of Neosho will welcome you back. Come home when you're ready. Plant some flowers, raise some kids, be active in the community and make a positive difference. The first graders of the class of 2031 are depending on you."

Following commencement, many graduates opted to participate in Project Graduation.

Congratulations, Class of 2019! The future begins now.