MHS honors Class of 2023 at commencement ceremony

Back inside of the Roundhouse for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, Marshalltown High School administration and MCSD school board members handed a total of 329 graduating seniors their diplomas on Sunday afternoon as each one prepares for the next chapter in life.

After the MHS band played “Pomp and Circumstance” and the national anthem was sung under the direction of High School Vocal Music Director Amy Ose, seniors Chesni Uhde, Cing Kim, Niang Niem and Jesse Carranza greeted the audience in four different languages, MHS Principal Jacque Wyant welcomed everyone in attendance before drawing attention to flowers placed in front of the podium to honor two deceased classmates — Corey Brown, who died in 2019 after falling from a communications tower, and Yanitza Lopez, who perished in a car accident last November. A moment of silence was observed for both Brown and Lopez.

Wyant then handed the microphone off to student speaker Yessenia Alvarez Zamora, who delivered a powerful address about the sacrifices her parents made to come to the U.S. from Mexico in an attempt to give Alvarez Zamora and her siblings a better life.

“Thanks to all of their sacrifices, my sisters and I are able to enjoy privileges that they could only dream of in their youth,” she said.

Tracing back the story of her own family, Alvarez Zamora said both of her parents dropped out of school at a young age and performed manual labor to survive. They ultimately chose to leave everything they knew behind to start a new life in the U.S., which meant that Alvarez Zamora and her sister could have “food on the table and clothes on our backs.”

Even in America, however, her parents ended up in physical labor jobs due to their lack of education, and Alvarez Zamora noticed a “heavier” tone anytime they discussed work. The pain they felt as a result of their occupations made it difficult to sleep even when they tried to sleep.

“We don’t have schooling. We don’t know English, and if we can’t do the work, there are many others who will,” her mother said.

Against this backdrop, Alvarez Zamora made it her life’s mission to learn as much as she could and excel in school at Marshalltown, quickly landing in the Talented and Gifted program and, in her words, making everything a competition even as she sometimes doubted herself.

“I was going to be successful by any means necessary and devoted myself to extracurricular activities and academic competitions. I spent middle school and high school signing up for whatever I could while taking the most rigorous classes available,” she said.

Her thoughts often returned to her parents as Alvarez Zamora wanted to ensure she was making them proud and could someday allow them to retire. In conclusion, she asked those in the audience to think of someone who helped them get to where they are today and be thankful for them.

“Feel the strength of the support beneath you, and go forth with the sure knowledge that that foundation will sustain you. Keep this in your mind through the times when you feel you don’t have the strength to go on, and know that if you keep up the struggle, you will become the foundation for those who come after you,” Alvarez Zamora said.

In conjunction with Memorial Day weekend, Wyant recognized all of the veterans in the audience as well as graduating seniors who will be entering the military, and she then asked the recipients of several different honors to stand, including Bobcat Ready, the Seal of Biliteracy (56 students earned it, another new record), NHS, Silver Cord Awards, class officers, honor students, students of distinction, students who earned community college credits and even degrees before completing high school and those who had served in any leadership role while at MHS.

After a performance of “The New World” from the student singers, Superintendent Theron Schutte, a proud Bobcat alum himself from the Class of 1981, offered a few remarks of his own congratulating the class on its accomplishments and navigating through the challenges that faced Marshalltown specifically — the tornado, derecho and the loss of two classmates — and the world at large with the COVID-19 pandemic. Schutte credited the seniors for adjusting to a variety of educational settings and still managing to come out of it ready for the next step in their lives.

“You truly should be fully prepared for most anything that gets thrown your way in your postsecondary pursuits,” he said. “Your high school experience also represents numerous individual, group and team accomplishments by persevering through individual struggles, challenges and adversity.”

Schutte expressed confidence that the graduates would walk out of high school “Bobcat Ready” to take their skills to college, the workforce and/or the military, and he urged them to be “passionate and purposeful” about pursuing their goals.

“Most importantly, take great pride in who you are, where you’ve come from, what you’ve accomplished and what you set out to accomplish in the future. Dream big,” he said. “Today is a celebration of you having successfully earned a Marshalltown High School diploma. I congratulate you and wish you continued success in the future.”

After a few more brief remarks from School Board President Sean Heitmann, who, like Alvarez Zamora, asked seniors to be thankful for the people who helped them to get to where they were on Sunday, it was finally time for the longest portion of the ceremony as all 329 seniors walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, and Dean of Students Dan Terrones read each of their names to raucous cheers from the audience.

From there, the graduated seniors flipped their tassels and walked out of the gym ready for the rest of their lives to begin on a sunny May day in central Iowa.


Contact Robert Maharry at (641) 753-6611 ext. 255 or rmaharry@timesrepublican.com.


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