Mexico High School said goodbye to 194 students as they graduated Monday, crossing the stage at Hawthorne Heights football stadium. It was the largest graduating class in recent years, with five students named valedictorians: Thomas Calaluce, Helena Fairchild, Sarah Kasubke, Elayna Samm and Cole Whalen. Grace Wortmann was named salutatorian.

The evening started out with a presentation from the Mexico High School Band, which played the “Star Spangled Banner” and selections from the film “The Greatest Showman.”

Principal Brad Ellebracht welcomed family and friends to the stadium, along with guests on the dais, which included other educators, Senior Class President Tristan Jones, Superintendent Zach Templeton, Assistant Superintendent Larry Nelson, Mexico Board of Education President Dustin Pascoe, who distributed diplomas, and other board members. He also thanked Director of Maintenance Curt Jackson, Lead Custodian Bill Weldon, Kris Fecht, assistant to the activities director, and the high school office staff for their preparations for the evening’s event.

High school Activities Director Jeff Anderson presented the honorary diploma to Kevin Freeman, who previously served as the high school principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent of Mexico School District No. 59. Freeman served in those capacities from 2003 to 2017. He briefly served as the Van-Far School District Superintendent from 2004 to 2007. He now serves as the director of the Missouri School Improvement program through Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“It is very special to share a diploma now with my children, who are all graduates of MHS and spent their entire public education career here in Mexico,” Freeman said.

Raymond Bybee was announced as the 2019 distinguished alumnus by Assistant Principal Travis Blevins. Bybee is a member of the Class of 1957. His most notable contribution to the high school’s campus is the Bulldog benches on the southeast corner of the building that have become a campus landmark. Bybee is an active presence at the school and was an AB Chance employee for 27 years before his retirement.

Jennifer Warbritton, a Spanish teacher, was selected by the graduating class as its teacher of the year. She was presented with the honor by Haylee Allen, Stacia Owens and Wortmann. “Mrs. Warbritton is known for her kindness, creative ways of engaging students and her positive attitude toward kids every day,” the trio said.

Two students were selected to offer the senior class address — Kylie Yeast and Ansel Herrera-Garcia. Yeast used humor to convey a message about thinking before you act and Herrera-Garcia spoke about how one can only reflect on their own life when offering advice.

“I would like to give you the longest, shortest speech of your life,” Yeast said. “After we walk across this stage, we are going to face a lot of decisions, and sometimes, it’s hard to tell what we should do and what we should not do.”

She closed out her speech by quoting TV show character Dwight Schrute from “The Office.” “Whenever I’m about to do something, I think, ‘Would an idiot do this?’ and if they would, I would not do that thing.”

Herrera-Garcia’s time at the high school has been enjoyable and unforgettable, he said. He encouraged his classmates to work through challenges and accept opportunities that come their way.

“It’s not just about how talented you are, you need to be provided with the opportunities that will develop your talents,” he said. “Collectively, we had so much success over the past years, and I am proud of you, but admittedly, it was no walk in the park.”