Class of 2023 graduates with accolades, prepares for future, post-COVID fresh start

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 5/24/23

Two sounds could identify the Owensville High School (OHS) Class of 2023 on Friday night: the clank, clank, clank of award medals and the shh, shh, shhh of the plastic wrap packaging of 97 “Mr. …

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Class of 2023 graduates with accolades, prepares for future, post-COVID fresh start


Two sounds could identify the Owensville High School (OHS) Class of 2023 on Friday night: the clank, clank, clank of award medals and the shh, shh, shhh of the plastic wrap packaging of 97 “Mr. Altemeyer” air fresheners — that just so happened to be stinky, according to one gleeful graduate.

As the smallest graduating class since the 1990s donned orange and black robes on May 19 in the small gym, groups of kids passed around a bowl filled with air fresheners and laughed.

“It is (Mr. Kris Altemeyer’s) face on the front and on the back it says ‘no.’ Because he is always telling us no,” a group of senior boys shared.

The OHS principal came rushing into the small gym for the graduation cap check and failed to notice sounds of shh, shh, shhhs as everyone rushed to hide the soon-to-be handshake exchange items in pockets, behind cell phones and under robes.

Many students exchanged exciting plans for their future. A few were more aware that it would be a long time before they set foot back in the halls of OHS. However, they agreed that they are ready to conquer the world — both because of and despite the challenges they faced.

“Our class is challenging people’s expectations, or stepping up to a standard that no one thinks they can hit,” said Gabe Soest. “I always like to think of it like the class above us was great. They did some amazing things in sports and academics and skill-wise. The class below us is also a very big class. We’re just the little class in the middle. We just gotta step up and show that just because we are small doesn’t mean (we’re not mighty).”

Soest said COVID definitely influenced their high school experience. Other seniors agreed it had a huge effect on their class size.

“Our late start to high school — I have been thinking about this a lot lately,” said Soest. “What would I have done if I could get that year back? I don’t know. I don’t think I would be as successful as I am if I’d had that year. We were talking about it one day with our track coach and he said ‘I think that year made you more — you desire it more. You want it more because you didn’t get it that year. You don’t have all the time in the world.’ That was a good lesson to learn then and not now or last year.”

Other classmates acknowledged that as close as the group is, they definitely weren’t that way throughout their elementary and middle school years.

“I  feel like we’ve all been so close together, especially since COVID,” said Josie Gerlemann. “I feel like we are all just so close. Everyone is going to go their own way, but there will be a time that we all get back together.”

Others believe the smaller class size made them a closer group.

“We’re the last group that had COVID so our group is smaller,” Payton Adams said. “But because it is smaller we are more tight-knit.”

“I feel like it’s a good thing that we’re smaller,” Mercedes Baguio. “We all know each other and most of us have good relationships with each other.”

“I think COVID made our grade closer,” said Landry Watson. “We weren’t super close before in middle school. After the pandemic hit, I feel like our grade became closer and now it is fun and tight-knit.”

“I feel like together, through COVID, we all had to learn new things and so we learned together and became a lot closer,” said Kylie Kitchen.

By the number of 4.0 students, high achievers, academic all-stars and scholarship recipients, it is obviously the class of 2023 strived to get everything they could out of their high school careers. However, they also tried not to take themselves too seriously.

“We made this high school a lot more fun than what it was,” said Gabby Hale. “I think we definitely missed the maturity, being able to mature throughout high school (due to missing most of our freshman year to COVID). I think we are still learning it.”

Hale’s friend Savannah McClure said maturity plays in a bit.

“We’ve definitely matured a lot over the years even though we did miss out on our freshman year,” said McClure.

McClure said when she thinks about the senior class she thinks “chaos.”

However, classmate Kohl Grannemann thinks his class will be successful because they have found the perfect balance of fun and seriousness.

“Our class is very outgoing,” said Grannemann. “ We just party it up. We will make the world a better place.”

Graduates lined the walls and entered from both sides of the gym, made their rounds and met in the middle before seating themselves.

Molly Wnuk gave the welcoming address.

OHS Choir sang “The Road Not Taken” by Ruth Elaine Shrum under the direction of Ken Tucker.

Math teacher David Koppelmann gave the farewell address.

OHS band played “Dark Heart” by Randall D. Standridge under the direction of Michael J. Orf.

When the first of the 97 graduates walked up on stage, Altemeyer reached out to congratulate them. Two big smiles, a thank you…and an air freshener for the principal.

The OHS administrator looked confused at first as the item disappeared somewhere behind him. Three graduates later, Assistant Principal John Bunch passed a cardboard box for Altemeyer’s “attendance prizes.”

The class recessional was “Tongue Tied.”

Altemeyer said on Monday that he has a box of about 100 air fresheners in his office now.

“I don’t think they smell bad,” he said. “They gave me two different scents. I am not sure what I am going to do with them. I may hand them out as faculty prizes. Or if you leave your car unlocked, expect a ‘Mr. Altemeyer air freshener.’”

This smaller class also seemed to capture the hearts of their teachers.

“This year’s class, like a lot of people said, with a small class they are very close-knit,” Altemeyer said. “This class has been through a lot with the pandemic just like the previous class. They stuck together. I am very proud of them.”