HANCOCK COUNTY — Nearly 600 local seniors crossed their high school stages with glee Friday night, celebrating a milestone in their education.

Mt. Vernon High School and New Palestine High School conducted their commencement ceremonies Friday; it was a time to salute the years before and look forward to the future ahead.

Mt. Vernon’s graduation was at the high school, where 309 seniors received their diplomas. The school honored valedictorian Cassandra York, daughter of Christopher and Monique York. The class of 2016’s salutatorians are Brian Bozymski, son of Michael and Debra Bozymski.

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Mt. Vernon students also took time to honor two classmates who died prior to receiving their diplomas: Savannah Castle, who died in 2014 after suffering a heart attack, and Tristan Carson, who died this week of an apparent medical issue.

Castle’s diploma was presented to her parents, Courtney Thompson and Jason Castle. Carson’s diploma was awarded to his twin brother, Ian Carson.

Seniors wore stickers bearing their deceased classmates’ initials, balloons were released in their honor, and each received a standing ovation from the crowd.

New Palestine also conducted graduation at the high school Friday night. The class of 2016 saw 286 graduates cross the graduation stage.

Valedictorian is Nicholas Ochs, son of Ted and Eva Ochs. Salutatorians are Jaret Rightley, son of Ethan and Kerry Rightley, and Sarah Schwartz, daughter of Marie and Steven Schwartz.

Greenfield-Central and Eastern Hancock’s graduations are planned for June 4.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.