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OTTUMWA — Decorations on mortarboards at graduation are a point of pride for some students. Some speak to goals, others to the relief at being done. One on Sunday at Bridge View Center could have spoken for most students: “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

The Grateful Dead reference also paid tribute to the paths Ottumwa’s seniors walked on the way to commencement. The class of 2019 listed 302 students. Their families and friends packed the facility, eager to celebrate their accomplishments.

Bailee Bean, the class president, urged her fellow graduates to keep working hard, whatever may come next.

Success is the goal, but setbacks are part of life, said Bean. If you fail, work to recover. But take the leap that can lead to greater things. “The point is to be ambitious for your life.”

Faculty speaker Nick Stout was in the students’ seats not long ago. Principal Dan McGuire, presiding at his first and only OHS commencement, said Stout was an Ottumwa graduate and worked his way back into the classrooms where he once learned.

Stout thanked the students for their work. “It has been my pleasure teaching,” he said.

The ceremony at Bridge View Center brought an end to graduation season for the area. For the students, though, it’s another beginning. A few wore stoles indicating future service in the U.S. armed forces. For many, the next step is back in a classroom, this time at a college campus.

Whatever comes next, Bean told her classmates to keep faith in themselves.

“You’re going to get where you’re meant to go,” she said.

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Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.