By Conrad Dudderar
Just like last year’s Yukon senior class – which saw their final high school year abruptly halted in the spring due to COVID-19 – Yukon High School’s Class of 2021 has overcome their share of challenges.
“These kids have had a very interesting senior year,” YHS Principal Melissa Barlow said. “Yet, they’ve prevailed through that and they’ve created their own opportunities.
“They’ve taken the struggles they’ve had and embraced them and made the best of it. That’s going to take them well into the future.”
The YHS Class of 2021 is comprised of 557 seniors who are eligible to graduate during next week’s commencement. The annual YHS Graduation Ceremony will be 7 p.m. Friday, May 21 at Miller Stadium on the school campus, 1777 S Yukon Parkway.
“I think this group of seniors has a special knack for being innovative,” Barlow added. “They’ve taken what the world has handed them and really molded it into their own.”
Leading Yukon’s senior class are three members who will speak at graduation: YHS Class President Cade Pope, YHS Student Council President Rebecca George and Class of 2021 Valedictorian Arysa Puckett.
Besides Rebecca and Arysa, other YHS Class of 2021 valedictorians are: Jeffrey Armstrong, Joclynn Bristow, Greyson Horst, David Lu, Quynh Nguyen, Cassandra Penick, Jerry Richardson, Kathrine Saxton, Lana Sherry, Ella Stanley, Bailee Thompson, and Kaylee Witte.
DRIVEN TO SUCCEED
Cade Pope is especially proud to lead this year’s Miller seniors as their class president.
Three of the students’ four high school years have been interrupted – their freshman year during a teacher “walk-out” and their junior and senior years by extended COVID shutdowns.
“Sophomore year has probably been our only ‘normal’ year of high school,” Cade said. “Our students are driven to succeed given the situation that they’re in.”
During high school, Cade has been involved in the Yukon Student Council, cross country, track, and National Honor Society. He will attend Oklahoma State University majoring in data science.
“I’ve enjoyed all four of my years here at the high school,” the YHS class president added. “It’s probably been the best high school experience I could have asked for – whether it’s for the teachers, the administration or the students.
“Yukon has been a fantastic place to go to high school and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
‘GREAT GROUP OF KIDS’
As YHS Student Council president, Rebecca George said Yukon’s Class of the 2021 is such a talented group of seniors.
“We have National Merit finalists, we have incredible athletes and incredibly talented fine arts students,” Rebecca said. “It’s just a great group of kids to be around.
“This year, especially, we’ve all been through so much. I think we’ve learned to just love each other and help each other out.”
Besides leading Yukon’s Student Council, Rebecca has an impressive resume from her YHS years.
Her other activities have included Yukon DECA, National Honor Society, Miller Yearbook, Leaders of Tomorrow, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Infant Crisis Services, among others.
Rebecca will attend the University of Oklahoma, where she will double-major in marketing and accounting. She has been accepted into the OU President’s Leadership Council.
Having attended Yukon Public Schools since pre-kindergarten, Rebecca will graduate with so many great memories here.
“I have met some of the most amazing people,” she shared. “Yukon has done such a good job preparing me for the future, allowing me to make those connections and pushing me to do my best.”
PUSHED TO ‘BE THE BEST’
The YHS Class of 2021 boasts 14 valedictorians, and this talented group chose Arysa Puckett to represent them at the May 21st graduation.
“This year, we’ve really learned how to communicate as a group, because there are so many of us with so many ideas, different thoughts and opinions,” Arysa shared.
“It’s been really incredible to see how we’ve overcome these differences and challenges. It’s really pushed us to be the best that we can be.”
Yukon’s senior class has used its diversity and creativity to plan activities (like Senior Sunrise) to make their final high school year “the best that we can” despite many school events being canceled, she added.
“We’re still very driven to make this year as fun as possible,” Arysa said.
Many Yukon seniors who returned to YHS for in-person instruction have reached out to those friends who remained in quarantine while enrolled in on-line classes.
“Strengthening relationships has been a really big deal this year,” Arysa said.
A theater student at YHS, Arysa has been involved in plays and musicals for the past three years after moving from another school.
“I’ve made so many friends through that, and through AP (Advanced Placement) classes and National Honor Society,” she said. “I’ve been in choir for two years, and that’s been a really great experience.”
Arysa is headed out of state, to attend Colorado State University majoring in ecosystem science and sustainability.