Bobcat ready — More than 300 graduating MHS seniors honored at commencement ceremony

More than 300 Marshalltown High School students went from seniors to graduates on Sunday during the commencement ceremony at the Roundhouse.

Student speakers included Stephanie Lizarde, Dutch exchange student Noor Akker, Vania Madrigal, Oscar Ibarra Murillo and Deanna Hernandez.

Lizarde told the crowd the last four years were very stressful. Students had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and derecho, political events such as the Presidential election, climate change and economic crises and the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

“Even after everything, we have made it here — high school graduation,” she said.

Those events have shaped the graduates into who they are today, Lizarde said. They met and overcame challenge after challenge and became stronger. They had to accept the pandemic would forever change their lives and they had to adapt, she said.

“Despite the difficulty of these events, we still pursued our education,” Lizarde said. “It’s because of our ambition we get to move forward, regardless of the challenges and changes. Accepting change isn’t only about acknowledging the fact that things are different. It’s about how we choose to move forward.”

She said it was because of themselves the students made it to graduation.

Akker began her speech by telling attendees about her situation as an exchange student.

“I will admit when I first found out I was being placed in this tiny town in Iowa, I was not exactly ecstatic,” Akker said. “But, here I am today in that very same town, calling it my second home. I would be lying if I said this year had been easy. In fact, it has been far from it. I come from a different upbringing than my American peers. I have different hobbies, and I have a different sense of humor. I was used to riding my bike instead of a car. I was used to dancing in clubs instead of a bride circle, and I was definitely not used to having the Pledge of Allegiance. So, you can understand my confusion when I came here and I see 14-year-olds hitting the curb outside the school. I see couples wearing matching pajamas to school and I see teachers like Mr. Bruce pull off dance moves at pep rallies.”

The kindness and curiosity of Marshalltown and the district staff made her feel at home, she said.

Marshalltown High School Principal Jacque Wyant said the seniors were awarded more than $1 million in scholarships. She asked the graduates to stand and be honored for enlisting in the armed forces and for accomplishing different achievements such as serving as class officers and other leadership positions, those who have earned college credits from Marshalltown Community College and for being honor students with a grade point average of 3.5 and greater.

Superintendent Theron Schutte addressed the graduates before each walked across the stage and received their diplomas. He said the graduates had to navigate significant situations, such as the 2018 tornado, the 2020 derecho and pandemic and the untimely loss of classmates.

“On behalf of the Marshalltown Community School District, I want to congratulate the class of 2024, as I know the diploma you are receiving today represents years of hard work,” Schutte said.

Many students expressed plans to pursue post-secondary education, and Schutte said they should feel confident in having a solid foundation to launch themselves into the next phase of their lives.

“You are Bobcat ready — well equipped with the knowledge, skill, creativity and confidence to successfully pursue your dreams and aspirations,” he said. “As you go forward today, I encourage you to be passionate about pursuing your dreams, to be purposeful in pursuing excellence in whatever life path you choose and most importantly, take great pride in who you are, where you come from, what you’ve accomplished and what you set out to accomplish in the future. Dream big.”


Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 ext. 210 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.


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