Tears were shed, roses were handed out and plenty of hugs were shared Friday night during Whittier High School’s Commencement ceremony in the auditorium at Smith-Cotton Junior High School.

Addressing the students were Director Martin White, Assistant Director B.J. Curry and Sedalia 200 school board vice president Michael Stees. The guest speaker was Courtney Bell, a 2003 Whittier graduate who had dropped out of school at age 15. She told this year’s class that, “Whittier saved my life; Whittier actually cared and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.” She now has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Missouri and runs her own graphic design business.

“Money and things will never buy you happiness,” Bell told the graduates. “A meaningful life is not about being rich, being popular, being highly educated or being what others want you to be. It is about being real, being humble, being able to share ourselves and touch the lives of others, and staying true to ourselves.”

At the end of the ceremony, the graduates each handed out roses to people who helped them achieve their success.

(Courtesy of Sedalia School District)