The tradition started last year, when COVID-19 guidelines prompted a drive-in ceremony complete with JumboTron and a car parade afterwards.

This year, the tradition continued with the addition of seating for graduates and families on the football field. Many more family and friends sat in their cars and listened to the program on their radios, while others sat on the hoods of cars or in the grass above the field.

The rain that had been forecast never materialized, and the sun broke through the clouds to make it a perfect evening for being outdoors. There was even a fresh breeze to cool everyone off in the 80-degree heat.

Superintendent Kevin Wellen, who used to teach science classes, talked about how Newton’s laws apply to the class of 2021. He encouraged them to keep in motion, accelerate and make a difference in the world. “Avoid those who drag you down,” he said. “Engage forces that will push you forward and work together.”

Class speakers Jordan Lake and Mariah Skoog shared special memories from their time in school, as well as the challenges of missing much in their junior year due to the pandemic when schools throughout the state closed in March 2020.

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They ended by reminding everyone of the class motto as they prepare to go their separate ways after graduation: “Hug your friends!”

Jennifer Farnam is a retired English teacher at Menahga High School who was chosen by the class of 2021 to be their keynote speaker. “You were one of my most favorite classes,” she said.

She shared humorous advice from posters teachers hang up in their classroom over the years. Farnam told the graduates that whatever they decide to do after graduation, the happiness they seek is within them. “The good in the world outweighs the bad,” she said. “Contribute to the good.”