Obama: Joplin graduate’s triumph exemplifies town’s journey

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Governor, Jay Nixon speaks with Quinton Anderson, a senior who lost both parents in the May 22 storm.  (Photo: Natalie Preston for PoliticMo)

Missouri News Horizon
JOPLIN, Mo.
— On the eve of the one year anniversary of the Joplin tornado, President Barack Obama visited Joplin to participate in the graduation ceremony at Joplin High School after a trying year for the community on Tuesday.

Obama addressed the 431 Joplin High School graduates and hundreds of family members during the ceremony, which took place on the campus of Missouri Southern State University.

The president focused a portion of his speech on Quinton Anderson, a Joplin graduate who sustained severe injuries in the tornado, which took the lives of both his parents.

“Quinton’s journey has been Joplin’s journey,” Obama said.

After five weeks of treatment, Anderson recovered and went on to be the high school football captain, even though he could not play. And after the year of trial, Anderson expects to go on to study molecular biology at Harding University.

“Quinton has said that his motto in life is ‘Always take that extra step,’” Obama said. “Today, [Tuesday] after a long and improbable journey for Quinton, for Joplin, and for the entire class of 2012, that extra step is about to take you towards whatever future you hope for; toward whatever dreams you hold in your hearts.”

The storm killed 161 in total, including six students — two from the high school — and one faculty member.

The May 22 storm took place just minutes after students finished the 2011 commencement ceremony, catching many residents on their way home from graduation.

Ten schools were damaged in the tornado, forcing administrators to scramble over the summer to find buildings.

For high school juniors and seniors, the school district settled on an abandoned shopping mall store. Spaces that once held sales racks of clothing were renovated into what architects called a “21st century” school design. Gone were the lockers and stuffy halls of their former school, and in were laptops and moveable walls.