A total of 43 graduates were honored last Thursday at Marionville High School's commencement exercises, a large number of whom were recognized as scholarship recipients as they move to the next chapter of their lives.

After the graduates proceeded into the gym in pairs, Principal Mark Estep introduced and recognized salutatorian Aaron Head, who then gave his salutatorian address.

Head began by thanking a long list of people who had helped him throughout his high school career, including his parents, friends, teachers and coaches. He also thanked valedictorian Matthew Weathermon specifically for pushing him to achieve academic success.

He then mused about memories made throughout his years in the Marionville school system, saying, "Growing up in this school has basically given me a second home."

After recounting some of his favorite memories and sharing some important lessons, Head wrapped up his speech by addressing his fellow graduates.

"My message is this: enjoy today because you will never get it back," he said, adding later, "Be proud of what you did and accomplished."

Following Head's address, Superintendent Larry Brown introduced Weathermon as the valedictorian, saying it was an honor to do so.

Weathermon also began his speech with a number of thank-yous before saying that when he thought back to beginning his school career in kindergarten, "I would have never guessed where we would be by now."

He recalled lessons he learned from his family, friends and teachers and expressed his appreciation for the experiences that helped shape his life.

"If I could go back and relive all of high school, I would," he said, adding that he believed his classmates would do the same. "But I should be talking about what we should be doing [now that we are graduating]."

Weathermon said now the class must focus on going to college and getting jobs, but also thanking those who have helped them along the way. But he acknowledged that while help is appreciated, things won't always be handed to them.

"Asking 'please' is not how progress is made," he said, adding, "I hope we all go out and achieve great things."

Before wrapping up his speech by reciting lines from the song "All-Star" by Smashmouth, Weathermon gave his fellow graduates a bit of life advice, as opposed to educational advice.

"Never forget to make the people around you smile," he said.

Following the speeches, counselor Ashley Finley recognized students graduating with honors via the cum laude system recently implemented. Those graduating with the highest honors, summa cum laude, included Head, Weathermon, Cole Brown, Tori Brown, Zachary Cavener, Melanie Crider, Luke Cryer, Nicholas Dean, Shalyn Eason, Autumn Fletcher, Braxton Fulp and Emily Garoutte.

Finley also recognized students who had received various scholarships and are planning to continue their education at the college level.

After the traditional senior memory slideshow, class president Luke Cryer performed the presentation of diplomas, which were handed out by school board president Jacquie Mais.

The graduates then presented flowers to parents, family members and other special people in their lives before huddling for the ceremonial cap toss to end the night's festivities.