PHOTO GALLERY: Newton High School celebrates graduation Saturday night

After graduation backstage, Rosany Esmeralda Ruiz-Alarcon, right, gets a hug.

By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now

PARK CITY—Merissa Serrano sat in the audience Saturday night, filming her daughter Khamaraa Jo’Leigh Ramirez and waving a sign that stated, “KJO 24” in a red heart.

She was there with a total of 21 other relatives cheering on Ramirez during the Newton High School Class of 2024 graduation at Hartman Arena in Park City.

“I can’t believe my kid just graduated,” Serrano said. “She’s a wonderful kid.”

She’s Serrano’s oldest child, and Ramirez is going to study nursing at Hesston College.

Ramirez was one of about 267 listed in the event program who walked across the stage.

The Newton High School Band played “Pomp and Circumstance” a couple of times and “Dance of the Shadows.” The band also accompanied students singing the alma mater.

Student speakers were Azaria Pauls, Virgil Guo and Abigail Koontz.

“After four years, we can finally say we [get] diplomas,” Pauls said to the audience. “Maybe you’ve been thinking about it since middle school, or maybe it just hit last month that we’re really graduating right now, May 18, 2024. I am standing in front of you tonight not at the top of my class with the best grades and the highest GPA. I’m just Azaria, and that’s why I’m giving this speech.”

She said she wanted to talk about kindness and how it changed her in high school.

“Kindness gave me the courage to act on stage, be a leader and even give this speech,” she said. So many people encouraged her through high school.

“Without them, I don’t know where I would be,” she said.

Guo, who is going to attend Harvard University, spoke about finding courage in high school and in public speaking.

“Hello, class of 2024,” Koontz said to the audience. “Congratulations to everyone sitting here on [graduation]. That is no simple matter. Over these past four years, we have mastered the art of avoiding the train traffic to get to school on time.”

During her speech, Koontz asked graduates to stand for various things they have done, like if a vehicle has cut any of them off in the school parking lot and if they were part of Scholars Bowl.

Another speaker was NHS Principal Blake Smith, who gave the welcome and final farewell. At one point, he talked about the odds of becoming or doing this or that, saying the odds of those are better than becoming a U.S. Presidential Scholar.

“We have a Presidential Scholar in our midst tonight,” he said. “Anahi Sanchez, would you please stand?”

Many people applauded while she stood.

Out of the 3.7 million students graduating high school this year in the United States, only 151 students were chosen as Presidential Scholars, he said.

“Only three of those 151 scholars came from the State of Kansas,” Smith said. “And only one of those three attended a public high school. Anahi Sanchez, graduating from Newton High School tonight, is that one.”

Azaria Rose Pauls gets a hug on stage during graduation.
Backstage, after graduation, Rosany Esmeralda Ruiz-Alarcon, right, gets a hug.
Students sit patiently during graduation.
Abigail Grace Shepherd, right, gives a hug while on stage.
Students sit patiently during graduation.
Students sit patiently during graduation.
Abigail Koontz, right, gives a speech on Saturday night.
Azaria Pauls gives a speech during graduation.
School employees listen to a speech.
Graduates take part in graduation on Saturday night.
One graduate seems to be glad to graduate.
Audience members watch graduation.
One of the NHS class of 2024 graduates, Virgil Guo, looks at the American flag while listening to the national anthem.
Students listen to the national anthem during graduation on Saturday night.
Students listen to the national anthem during graduation on Saturday night.
Newton High School 2024 graduates sing the alma mater.
Newton High School 2024 graduates sing the school alma mater.
Merissa Serrano, right, along with other family members, cheers on her daughter, Khamaraa Jo’Leigh Ramirez.
Jennifer Hernandez, with tears streaming down her face, gives a hug backstage after graduation.
Michael David Seirer gets a hug at graduation.
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