Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Patton Junior High School staff and faculty celebrated 57 ninth-grade students and their accomplishments with a graduation ceremony May 20 in the Patton gym.
“Today marks the closing of one chapter in their lives and the opening of many new opportunities. At Patton, we strive to provide the type of education that will enable students to become productive, positive citizens,” said Ryan Wiebe, Patton principal. “It has been a pleasure to see this group of students’ progress throughout this year. …They will be missed. We wish you continued success in your future endeavors.”
The ceremony included remarks from two representatives of the graduating class, Gabrielle Ohwovoriole and Hannah Morse; recognition of 21 students who attended Patton seventh- through ninth-grade known as “Patton Perseverance;” and two students who have attended Unified School District 207 since kindergarten known as “USD 207 Lifers.”
Ohwovoriole said she has learned the meaning of appreciation while at Patton.
“When I was younger, I never really understood what it felt like to have a friend move away. I was always the one leaving, pushing the reset button on everything. That all changed when I made it to Kansas. It was here that I learned what goodbye truly meant,” Ohwovoriole said. “I finally understood what my friends went through, and it completely changed my outlook on life. I no longer mourned what I once had. Instead, I cherished the memories I made along the way. It was here that it became clear to me that I needed to look for the good in every situation. I need to value each moment.
“Patton Junior High may appear staid on the outside, but it’s buzzing with excitement on the inside. When I would walk through its halls, I would see students with passions so bright it would blind my eyes, with a future surgeon in one corner and a foreign affairs officer in the next,” she said. “There weren’t any dreams too big, and if deemed unattainable, the teachers helped inspire us to continue to strive to accomplish them. Even when the pandemic knocked us off our feet, we still got back up again.”
Morse, who represented the remote learners, shared her own personal challenges of the past schoolyear including learning to be more independent, overcoming technical difficulties and adjusting to the lack of social interaction.
“There is a quote by Roy T. Bennett that says, ‘Every challenge, every adversity, contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth.’ Therefore, I took advantage of these challenges and converted them into new opportunities,” Morse said.
These opportunities included sleeping in, homecooked food for lunch, learning Mandarin and Korean, and having more time with her family and dogs, Morse said.
“From my learning experience at Patton this year, it prepared me to be more independent, which encouraged me to take initiative in my studies, maintain discipline from distractions at home and have better time management,” she said. “The overall experience I had at Patton was fun, unique and helped me grow as a person. It set me up for success and placed me on the right path while preparing me for my next school and college.”
In addition to the student remarks, Patton graduate Gen. Paul Funk II, commander of Training and Doctrine Command, served as the guest speaker.
“Even though this year wasn’t what you thought it’d be, you handled each curveball and challenge with grace and confidence. Although you don’t probably recognize it now, you gained skills such as resilience, flexibility, and adaptability that I sure as heck didn’t have at your age,” Funk said. “This is what America does. We overcome challenges. We face into the unknown, we enter the fight, and we win. Your mindset as the next generation, the next greatest generation is critical. Never forget that you are leading the world.”
Funk said he wanted graduates to remember three words — be, know and do.
“Always believe in yourself. Be confident but stay humble and kind. Be empathetic but find the best in others. Emulate their attributes. … Be receptive of constructive criticism.
Approach every problem as a challenge to overcome and as an opportunity to learn and grow,” Funk said. “Thrive on chaos. Be flexible and agile and be ready and willing to adapt and change. Try different things. You do not have to be perfect. It’s OK to fail.
…But learn from your failures. Get up and dust yourself off and try again.
“Know constantly. …Constantly improve your speaking and writing skills. Learn and know the history of our nation. Stay abreast of current events and know what’s going on in our great country. Take courses that might scare you and be out of your comfort zone,” he said. “Do. Do maintain your physical and mental toughness. Always arrive early and leave late. Volunteer. Do the right thing even when no one is looking.”