Ritenour Celebrates Compassion, Resilience and Strength of Class of 2023 during June 3 Graduation
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The Ritenour community celebrated Ritenour High School’s 105th graduating class with an unforgettable ceremony held at Chaifetz Arena on June 3. Against all odds, amidst four challenging years of a global pandemic, the class of 2023 walked across the stage, embodying the true essence of compassion, resilience, and strength.
The 330 graduates proved they could rise above significant educational, social and emotional impacts from the pandemic, which included:
- COVID shutting down their freshman year in March 2020 and a sudden switch to full virtual learning
- Full-virtual learning during the first semester of their sophomore year and hybrid learning as an option during the second half of the year
- Quarantines, COVID-related absences and health precautions in place during most of their junior year
The class of 2023’s senior year opened with no required COVID precautions, and activities and classes returned to almost normal routines. The social and emotional impacts of the pandemic, however, continued to be apparent with many of the students.
RHS Principal Dr. Jana Haywood reminded the graduates their last four years have laid a firm foundation for a bright future.
“As you cross the stage today know that you are equipped to navigate life’s situations,” said Dr. Haywood. “You are compassionate, resilient and strong.”
Some highlights of the class of 2023 include:
- Seniors earned a total of more than $3.3 million in college scholarships.
- A record number of students earned Industry Recognized Certificates from RHS and North County Technical School.
- Kyla Williams graduated with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley.
- Fifteen seniors graduated with the Missouri Seal of Biliteracy in languages in Spanish and French.
- Three seniors were admitted early decision to Washington University and New York University.
- Two students received the Grow Your Own Scholarship from Saint Louis University to pursue a degree in teaching and return to Ritenour as educators after college graduation.
- Eight student-athletes received scholarships to pursue their athletic careers in college.
Kyla Williams, who earned her RHS diploma in addition to an associate's degree from St. Louis Community College was one of two student speakers at commencement. She will head to Indiana University in the fall to pursue a degree in atmospheric science and meteorology. She reminded her classmates to celebrate small victories and not to take for granted those who love them.
“Remember to celebrate the little wins that aren't “post worthy” and big things that the whole world should know about, to appreciate this thing called life, and to hold the people that care for you tight,” Williams said. “Tomorrow is not promised.”
With a proud smile, Williams also reminded her classmates how wonderful they are and that they should continue being true to themselves. “I genuinely hope that you pick you, and that you recognize you're worthy, that you make a difference, that you are important, and that you are wonderful and deserving.”
Enrique Castillo, who was accepted early decision to Washington University on a full scholarship, also addressed his classmates, families and friends. He was the first graduation speaker to honor his heritage by delivering a portion of his speech in Spanish. His future plans include attending dental school and becoming a dentist with his own practice.
Castillo reminded his classmates about how they have persevered amidst adversity to get to the finish line.
“We’ve taken the sacrifices of our parents and seized our opportunities and chances,” said Castillo. “Be proud of what we’ve accomplished. The hard work we’ve pushed through to get where we are today is paying off and will continue to do so.”
The future dentist inspired his classmates to pursue greatness regardless of past challenges. “No matter where we come from, or what hardships we face, we have the ability to accomplish great things in life.”