CHS graduates 70 seniors

A full Colbert Gymnasium enjoys 137th Commencement

BY JIM BEERS, Contributing Writer

CHESTER – Chester High School was a hoppin’ place Sunday afternoon May 21st when 70 YellowJacket seniors crossed the stage for the 137th Commencement at CHS. Colbert Gymnasium was packed as a full-house of family, friends and other guests filled almost every seat.

This huge crowd was in part due to the 70 senior graduate candidates, but it was also a bright, sunny, clear day in Chester and the weather was still not extremely hot or humid at 3:00 p.m. when the ceremony started.

Seniors began to arrive shortly after 2:00 p.m. for individual photos being taken in Juergens Gym by Lifetouch Photography. This is the same company that takes official Summit Yearbook pictures of all sorts throughout the school year.

At 2:30 p.m. all seniors were posed by the photographer in the bleachers for the official Class of 2023 photograph.  This would be the last time that the Class of 2023 would pose for an official CHS photo.

At about the same time, Graduation Marshalls and Ushers began to arrive for their official duties. Marshalls and Ushers were selected from the junior Class of 2024 based upon their grade point averages.

Marshalls were ranked 1st through 4th in the Junior Class of 2024 and included Jordan Buskohl. Garret Hopkins, Lucas Thompson, and Mabry Wingerter. Marshalls directed the seniors through their graduation entry into Colbert Gym and down the stairs onto the floor and into their seats.

Once the graduation diplomas were to be handed out, Marshalls directed the seniors from their seats one row at a time to the stage where they went across the stage to be announced and to receive their diplomas. They were then directed back to their seats on the floor.

Ushers were ranked 5th through 10th in the Junior Class of 2024 and included Scott Brown, Emma Diskey, Chase Gilbert, Haley Hoskin, Hannah Kaempfe, Rylie McDonough, and Kaci Trost. Ushers met guests as they entered Colbert Gym and handed them programs and assisted with seating and answering any question.

The configuration of the gym was new this year with the band set up on the south end of the gym under the basket closest to the cafeteria. Seniors were sitting in two sections mid-court for good visibility to the crowd.

The stage was set in the center of the baseline at the north end of the Rocky Bridges Court under the basket by the locker rooms. To each side of the stage, left and right, CHS teachers sat in four rows of chairs to each side.

For the first time in school history, the CHS Faculty marched into the gym just prior to the entrance of the seniors, and each teacher wore a gown and hood from the university from which they graduated.  Once on the floor, the faculty marched to the section of chairs to the left and right of the stage.

Seniors entered the gym from the Dr. James F. Sharp Cafeteria from the left and from the hallway next to the concession stand from the right.  This year they were spaced out farther apart as they processed into the gym and they walked down the second set of stairs on each side of the gym instead of the first set of stairs.  Once on the floor, they were directed to their respective set of chairs on each side of the gym.

The ceremony started with Steve Colonel and his Chester High School Concert Band playing “Fanfare and Processional” otherwise known as “Pomp and Circumstance” by Elgar for the faculty and seniors to march in with.

Kimberly Briggs, District No. 139 Superintendent, then provided a nice “Welcome Address” with several hints and suggestions for future success to the Graduation Candidates.

Immediately following Briggs’ address, CHS Principal Jeremy Blechle introduced the 2023 Graduation Marshalls and Ushers, the Top-10 members of the Senior Class of 2023, and the Senior Members of the Summit Chapter of the National Honor Society. This was Mr. Blechle’s Inaugural Chester High School Graduation since taking over as CHS Principal in the fall of 2022.

Trace Fricke, Chester High School senior, was the Class of 2023 Salutatorian. He took the stage after the Principal Blechle’s introductions to give his opening speech and welcome everyone to the 137th CHS Commencement Ceremony.

It was then the time everyone was waiting for! Principal Jeremy Blechle presented the Class of 2023 and certified that all 70 seniors had completed the requirements for graduation.

Assistant Principal Robin Barton read the names of all seniors as they were directed to the stage to receive their diplomas. Board of Education members Charles Fricke, Nikki Malley and Trent Vasquez presented the diplomas.

Class of 2023 Chester High School graduates included the following seniors.

+ Denotes members of the Top-10 seniors in the class.

* Denotes members of the Summit Chapter of the National Honor Society.

Maleia Absher                        

Tulsa Marie Addison              

Clayton Dean Scott Andrews

Chelsea Marie August * +     

Jennifer Autumn Lynn Beil    

Joshua Daniel Benton

Scott Allen Bernachi II                      

Nichlolas Shane Bicket          

Sabrina Lynn Bixby

Aidan James Blechle              

Maggie Elizabeth Clendenin 

Brenna Nicole Coffey

Sydney Richelle Collins *     

Hanna Sue Colvis * +            

Jacob Lee Cotner

Conner Edward Cowan         

Rylan Gage DeLay                

Trayvon Maquon Dukes

Carson Todd Dunn                 

Isaac Nathanial Earl               

Emma Page Eggemeyer *

Chelsea Lynn Essman            

Trace Anthony Fricke * +      

Clayton Earl Grammer

Malachi Thomas Greathouse 

Savanna Jordyn Guebert *     

Karlea Rae Hahs

Jacob Clark Handel * +         

Gage Edward Hasemeyer      

Jesse James Heath

Abagail Rose Hicks               

Jessalynn Marie Hobeck        

Landon Hornbostel

Aaron Luke House                 

Austin Michael House                       

Camrynn Elizabeth Howie *

Matthew Scott James             

Koby Adam Jany *                

Jorge Martin Jardines

Cody Edward Johnson                       

Paul Curtis Leffler Jr.             

Kerringtyn Anne Malley * +

Cesar Ivan Marquez               

Layden Blake Martin            

Reese Elizabeth McCormick *+

Colin Lee McDaniels 

Dylan Lee McLelland

Aubrie Lynn Medford

Aubrey Renee Miers  

Briley Glyn Miles * +            

Charles Walter Morgan III     

Chance Wilson Mott  

Chandler Wayne Prater          

Jonathon David Renfroe        

Payton Ray Res                      

Gavin Ray Schroeder 

William Owen Schuwerk +   

Lily Mae Smith

Makenzie Jade Stauffer   

Mikayla Brielle Lee Straight*+                                    

Haley Paige Sudmeyer

Paige Elizabeth Thomas *     

Kane Richard Trost    

Brandon Lee Tucker  

Paige Kaylyn Vasquez *

Julia Nicole Venus +

Seth Wyatt Walker     

Noah James Wetzel    

Branden Herschel Whitley                 

MacKenzie Kay Worley

The CHS Class of 2023 had three Co-Valedictorians this year including Miss Chelsea August, Mr. Jacob Handel, and Miss Briley Miles. All three gave their versions of the Class of 2023 Farewell Addresses to close out the final portion of the 137th Commencement Ceremony.         

Following the Farewell Addresses, Class of 2023 President, Emma Eggemeyer came forward to conduct the formal “Moving of the Tassel” to signal the official end of the graduation ceremony.  Of course, in addition to the moving of the tassels, most of the class also threw their caps in celebration.

Mr. Colonel and the CHS Concert Band then immediately “struck up” the first notes of “Fanfare and Recessional” by Ployhar to escort the graduates out of the gym for the final time in the high school careers of the 70 Chester High School Graduates.

CHS Principal Jeremy Blechle poses for a pre-graduation photo with his oldest son, Aidan who graduated Sunday May 21st from Chester High School. This was Jeremy’s first graduation as Chester’s new Principal. Aidan will attend Southern Illinois University at Carbondale next fall to study in the Salukis Aviation Program. Jim Beers Photo                 

The Chester High School Class of 2023 poses for a class photo prior to the 137th Commencement at CHS Sunday May 21st. The Class graduated 70 seniors at a well-attended ceremony at CHS Colbert Gymnasium at 3:00 P.M.. Jim Beers Photo

CHS senior Briley Miles was one of three Co-Valedictorians Sunday May 21st at Chester High School’s 137th Commencement. Jim Beers Photo 

CHS senior Chelsea August was one of three Co-Valedictorians from the Chester High School Class of 2023. Jim Beers Photo

Jacob Handel, one of three Co-Valedictorians from the Chester High School Class of 2023, poses for a brief reflection immediately following his “Farewell Adress” speech Sunday May 21st at the 127th Commencement at CHS. Jim Beers

CHS seniors wait to be seated during the Processional Ceremony at the 2023 Chester High School 127th Graduation Ceremony Sunday May 21st. On the stage are Administrators Jeremy Blechle, Principal. Robin Barton, Assistant Principal, and Kimberly Briggs, District # 139 Superintendent of Schools. To their right are Board of Education Members Nikki Malley, Charles Fricke, and Trent Vasquez. Steve Colonel, CHS Band Director is directing the CHS Concert Band while they provide Processional music, “Fanfare and Processional”, better known as Pomp and Circumstance” by Elger. To the right and left of the stage are CHS faculty dressed in their College Graduation Gowns and Sashes. Jim Beers Photo 

CHS senior Trace Fricke was the Class of 2023 Salutatorian at the 127th Annual Commencement Sunday May 21st. Fricke is shown here giving his “Welcome to Graduation” speech to begin the 2023 Graduation Ceremony. Jim Beers Photo 

Chester High School senior Jacob Handel receives his diploma from District # 139 Board of Education Member Nikki Malley Sunday May 21st at the 127th Commencement at CHS. Looking on in excitement are CHS Principal Jeremy Blechle, and Board of Education member Charles Fricke. Jim Beers Photo

CHS senior Cesar Ivan Marquez smiles in excitement just after exiting the stage with his high school diploma Sunday May 21st at Chester’s 127th Annual Commencement. Marquez was one of 70 graduates from the Class of 2023. Jim Beers Photo

Chester High School Class of 2023 President Emma Eggemeyer leads the class in the ceremonial changing of the tassel to indicate that they are now graduates of CHS. Immediately after completing the tassel change, the class tossed their capes in celebration. Jim Beers Photo