Class of 2022

Dual valedictorians lead largest graduating class in decades
Posted on 06/01/2022
Selina Nicole Pociask

A total of 371 students graduated from Poplar Bluff High School on Thursday, May 26, at the Black River Coliseum – the biggest cohort since 1980, and the sixth largest class in history.

Principal Mike Owen, who will serve on the superintendent cabinet next year, announced that the Class of 2022 has earned a total of $2.7 million and counting in individual scholarships, A+ funding and other grants.

“I would like to be the first to say: I am so proud of you,” said RhyLee Sprague, class president. “Nothing else. I am simply proud of who you are and who you are trying to become.”

Salutatorian Ella Zgaynor took the opportunity to thank all of her teachers for the “enormous impact in shaping me into the person I am today.”

Two valedictorians were named this year: Brileigh Cates and Emma Sutton. The occasion marked the first tie at the top of the class in 20 years, according to PBHS secretary Shelly Bourd.

Cates encouraged her classmates to use life’s “curves and hills” or “struggles and hardships” to: “expand your expectations and become a better version of yourself.”

“(Do) not let circumstances define you. Instead, let these difficulties push you,” Cates advised. “The future will never be crystal clear, and certainly it will not be trouble-free.”

Sutton referenced a poem that she memorized as a seventh grader in Tom Allen’s gifted class: “O Me! O Life!” by Walt Whitman.

“…The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse… What will your verse be?” she asked, subsequently quoting the movie, ‘Dead Poets Society.’ “Find your verse. Find out what it is you want to contribute to this life.”

Before the students received their diplomas, R-I Superintendent Dr. Scott Dill recognized all of the PBHS alumni in the audience, informing the graduating class that they would be joining an “elite group… out there changing the world.”

“We’re ready for you to do your part. We’re proud of you,” Dill stated. “We’ve given you the best that we can all these years. It’s time.”

Students Emma Eubank, Collin Glick, Alexis Keirsey and Carson Nagy were additionally presented their associate degrees by Chief Academic Officer Dr. Sherry Phelan of Three Rivers College through the College Now matching partnership, presently funded at 100 percent by the district through the ESSER program.


Cutline: Selina Nicole Pociask smiles after walking across the stage to receive her diploma.

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