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Joplin High School Seniors To Graduate On Eve Of Tornado Anniversary

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This year's class includes 428 seniors. This year's class includes 428 seniors.
Sam Williams and Dayton Whitehead graduate this year from their high school. Sam Williams and Dayton Whitehead graduate this year from their high school.

Karl Torp, News 9

JOPLIN, Missouri -- High schools across the country are holding graduation ceremonies this time of year. In Joplin, seniors will be getting their diplomas on the eve of the one year anniversary of a massive tornado that destroyed a lot of the town, and killed more than 150.

It's been a different kind of year for those seniors. Senior year is supposed to be the best time of any students' life. So you can understand why Joplin High School seniors may feel a little cheated over what's happened this past year.

Joplin Tornado Timeline

Where you shop, Sears, JC Penney and TJ Maxx, is where Joplin upperclassmen learn about math, English and science.

"This isn't what anyone thought their senior year would be," Joplin senior Sam Williams said.

Sam Williams and Dayton Whitehead graduate this year from their high school at the end of the Northpark Mall.

"I think it's going to be a big relief when people walk across the stage," said Whitehead. "I miss the old school a lot, it was home and you don't want to go away for home."

But the May 22nd tornado turned home into piles of concrete and twisted metal, still cover the tattered traces of school colors.

Athletic teams now use a Hodge Lodge of facilities all over town. The weight room: a powerhouse gym.

After three years of high school, both of these students admit they felt a little lost on the first day of their senior year.

"What we had to do was come together and accept it," Whitehead said.

A challenge that students realized early on was nothing compared to massive struggles tornado torn Joplin deals with each day.

"This is just a short chapter in our rebuilding process," Whitehead said.

This year's class includes 428 seniors. President Obama is in town Monday night to give the key note address at graduation. That's something that has the students pretty fired up.

"I can't even describe the feeling that we all have. It's such an honor to have the president of the United States speaking at our school, politics aside, it's such an honor," Lydia McAllister said.

5/21/2012 Related Story: Joplin Students Remember Deadly Tornado That Killed Classmates

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