WESTPORT — The South Decatur Jr.-Sr. High School Class of 2019 closed one chapter of their lives Friday night as they walked across the stage to receive their high school diplomas.

Of this year’s graduating class, 43 percent earned the two highest diploma types offered by the Indiana Department of Education, 35 percent of the senior class are in the National Honor Society and earned 1,040 dual high school and college credit hours. SDHS was also given a B-plus rating by the Indiana Department of Education.

Also, according to SDHS Principal Jim Jameson, two of the five finalists from Decatur County in competition for the Lilly Endowment Scholarship were from South. In the past two years, seven of the 10 finalists have comes from South along with back to back winners. The two finalists from SDHS this year were Madison Owens and Annalise Gant.

Jameson also recognized graduate Dylan Short for signing up to serve his country in the United States Navy, and presented the Crystal Cougar Award to the now-retired Pamela Sweasy as gift on behalf of the SDHS staff and faculty for 35 years of contributions to the school district.

“To the class of 2019, well, we are here, the moment you have been waiting for for 13 years” Jameson said. “A time in your life where you, your parents, and your family will remember this night. So, my advice to you is this: soak it all in, every moment, because it will stick with you for the rest of your life.”

As part of the ceremony, SDHS Class of 2019 salutatorian Annalise Gant spoke before her classmates, lauding their character, work ethic and leadership.

“These last four years have been incredible, and I thank anyone who has contributed to that,” Gant said. “I wish the best of luck to the graduates sitting before me.”

Class valedictorian Kenneth Stier also spoke to his class, stating they’ve been given a gentle push and it is now time for he and his classmates to take control and make something of themselves.

“As we look to the future, we cannot forget our roots and where we come from,” Stier said. “This caring community has passed its values on to us to help carry us into the future.”

Jameson also issued words of wisdom to the students, saying he has seen the best of what the Class of 2019 has to offer, and asked for them to continue living such a life even with high school now over.

“My challenge to you is to see what I’ve seen in each one of the members of the Class of 2019 in their time here at South Decatur,” Jameson said. “I have seen each of you rise above and support one another in many different ways. I have seen you helping a friend out in a difficult situation, I have seen you work together on homework and collaborate, I have seen many of you donate blood, give to a local food pantry, clean up the highway, rake leaves for the elderly, and you have all done so many wonderful things. You don’t even realize the impact you’ve had as a class.

“I also challenge you after tonight and you leave here as graduates that there will be many times in your life when you will be faced with challenges and you will be faced with adversity. I want you to start seeing things in a different light – in a different perspective – I want you to start looking for that silver lining in each situation.”

Perhaps the valedictorian summed it up perfectly. The diploma is a symbol of the place you called home for a chapter of your lives. But even with that chapter closed, he advised his fellow classmates to always remember where they came from.

“Tonight, as we leave this place for the last time as a student, we’ll walk with a piece of paper that represents the lessons we’ve learned, the friendships we have formed, and the memories we have made,” Stier said. “Wherever life takes you, remember where you came from. Whatever you do, don’t forget that we will forever be Cougars.”

Contact: Joshua Heath, 812-663-3111 x7401; joshua.heath@greensburgdailynews.com.