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Quinn Fullington latches a wire to a yard trimmer

Quinn Fullington latches a wire to a yard trimmer during the biannual Operation Clean Neighborhoods at and around Again Street Park on Friday. City employees and volunteers were divided into different groups to help clean the neighborhood.

Stephens College commencement celebrates courage, community
 tmcgartland  / 

As Davielle Swinson-Spears walked across the stage at her undergraduate commencement ceremony, she wore a yellow stole special to Stephens College with ‘RESPECT’ embroidered in purple letters swinging at her side.

Swinson-Spears was one of 10 seniors who received the Ten Ideals award from her class, chosen because she personified Stephens’ vision of respect.

Saturday was a big day for Swinson-Spears, who graduated from Stephens College with a bachelor’s of science degree in psychology.

“Stephens has allowed me to grow into the woman I want to be,” she said.

On Saturday afternoon, Stephens College presented 94 students, its undergraduate class of 2019, with their respective degrees on the campus’ Historic Quadrangle.

Stephens College had its commencement ceremony for graduate and online students Friday evening.

The Ten Ideals honor, which Swinson-Spears received, began in 1921 when Stephens’ administration wanted to develop a new curriculum. The honor dissipated in 1968 and then came back in 1983 with the help of Dean of Students Martha Wisbey and a group of Stephens students, according to the commencement’s ceremony pamphlet.

Although Swinson-Spears was recognized for respect, she said the college’s ideal that resonated with her most was courage.

“You have to be willing to step out there, try new things like moving away from home and moving away from family,” Swinson-Spears said. “You have to have the courage to take the leap of faith.”

She was the first in her family to graduate from college.

Commencement address speaker Tina Parke-Sutherland, an English and creative writing professor, also spoke of courage during her speech. She told a tale of a woman jumping in a hole only to fall on Grandmother Turtle, who she worked in tandem with to create Earth.

“You and I are that woman,” said Parke-Sutherland. “Courage is what we need as we jump into the future.”

As for Swinson-Spears’ future, she plans to get her master’s degree in social work at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

For other graduates, the future might mean packing up and starting fresh, like Aki Johnson, who hopes to move to Chicago.

“I’ve been in school my entire life, it’ll be good for me to take a break,” Johnson said.

Johnson graduated with a degree in fashion design and product development. From her time at Stephens, she said she was most proud of being able to combine her two passions and make it interesting to her.

Johnson said she will miss Stephens’ community the most.

“I only hung out with a handful of people, but it was a tight-knit group,” Johnson said. “I really don’t think I would be here if it weren’t for the people I met.”

Both Parke-Sutherland and Stephens College President Dianne Lynch spoke of such community at Stephens and called it “beloved” while speaking at commencement.

Other speakers included class address speaker Mariah Escarsega and class president Breeanna Albin, who gave Lynch a painting on the behalf of the class of 2019.

“Time to go,” Lynch said after the seniors turned their tassels and received their degrees. “Although, you’re not supposed to know where you’re going.”

Supervising editor is Daphne Psaledakis.

Company says it was told duck boats were OK before sinking

BRANSON — An entertainment company that owned a duck boat involved in a fatal sinking on a Missouri lake last summer disputes that an independent investigator told it its vehicles did not comply with a government standard.

Ripley Entertainment hired Steve Paul in 2017 before it bought the boats from Missouri company Ride the Ducks International to determine whether they met the Department of Transportation’s regulations, Paul said.

Suzanne Smagala, a spokeswoman for Ripley Entertainment, told The Associated Press that Paul passed the boats in his report. Paul has said he inspected 24 boats of the 40 boats that Ride the Ducks was selling when it ceased operations in Branson. He found all of them deficient under the department’s standard because of the location of their tailpipes.

Florida-based Ripley ultimately purchased 22 of the 40 boats. One sank last July when a storm hit on Table Rock Lake, killing 17 people.

Smagala provided the AP with a July 2018 letter from SEA Ltd, an engineering company that Ripley says reviewed Paul’s report. The letter says Paul gave Stretch Duck 07 a “Road Test Condition Grade” of “Good.” Later, however, the letter states that Paul’s “inspection report addressed the exhaust pipes as not meeting” Transportation Department regulations.

Neither Smagala nor Paul would provide the AP with Paul’s report. According to its website, SEA focuses on “forensic consulting services and failure analysis” and litigation support.

The ill-fated Branson boat had been inspected and certified by the Coast Guard, which principally regulates duck boats.

An Arkansasinvestment company purchased the remaining 18 vehicles from Ride the Ducks on April 23. Stacy Roberts, who owns DUKW Arkansas, has said he has not determined what he will do with the boats.

With expanded veterans center, MU celebrates campus ROTC
 Anna Lewis  / 

Patriotic music, shouted commands, speeches and the sound of marching feet on Friday filled MU’s Francis Quadrangle as MU completed its Pass in Review ceremony.

Members of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force ROTC programs stood at attention under the gaze of officers and Provost Latha Ramchand, this year’s reviewing official.

Lt. Col. Gary Kerr introduced Ramchand and thanked those who helped put the event together. He said from personal experience, it can be difficult to organize so many people for such a display.

Putting the event together “is no small task, especially with my own Army cadets, who can set an ambush with their eyes closed but often struggle to put their left foot down when we say left,” he said.

Kerr said the history of Pass in Review goes back to Valley Forge, when George Washington reviewed his troops.

Ramchand wished MU ROTC a happy 150th birthday and spoke about the success of the program.

“No matter where you go, no matter where your work takes you and no matter how critical those moments — how challenging those moments — when you’re miles away from home, please know that we are solidly here to support you, and we’ll be here to receive you when you return,” she said at the event.

The ceremony also recognized several ROTC members for excellence by presenting them with sabers. To conclude the ceremony, students from the Missouri Military Academy band played songs from the various military branches as the ROTC members marched off the field.

For many, the event is their last glimpse of MU.

“Of the cadets that are on the field today, many of them will become second lieutenants within a week,” Kerr said.

Following the ceremony was a ribbon-cutting for the expansion of the MU Veterans Center in Memorial Union.

Kevin Owens, vice president of the Mizzou Student Veterans Association, said the center brings veterans together and helps them access various resources, such as housing.

Veterans, alumni, MU faculty, Chancellor Alexander Cartwright, Veterans Center staff, representatives of Welcome Home, Inc. and some political representatives — including Reps. Chuck Basye and Sara Walsh — attended the Veterans Center expansion opening.

An anonymous donation made in honor of Gary Turner, a Vietnam veteran who helped open a veterans center in Springfield, funded the expansion, Cartwright said.

Turner, who was greeted by thunderous applause and a standing ovation, said it’s important for veterans to have a place where they can come and share their experiences.

Turner said that, looking around the room, he realized he was one of the only Vietnam veterans there.

“But then I realized, there’s one place that all of us have been together: the battlefield. And the battlefield can be a life-changing event,” he said.

Kyle Smith, MSVA president, said the new space is a tremendous improvement. In the previous center, they had just six available chairs and a coffeemaker. It has quadrupled in size and has “drastically increased” the number of veterans that the office is able to interact with, he said.

Attendees were invited to tour the new space, which measures about 1,700 square feet in total, according to a news release.

As veterans and alumni entered, Turner greeted each, shaking hands and smiling.

“For the veterans to know that they can go somewhere where there’s going to be other veterans is really huge, because they know they can get in there and talk about things that you may not understand, and they really don’t want to share it with other people,” he said. “But being able to go in and share it with other veterans is huge.”

Supervising editor is Libby Stanford.

State approves $30 billion dollar budget
 Ashlyn O'Hara  / 

JEFFERSON CITY — State lawmakers approved an almost $30 billion budget early Friday morning, following the latest state revenue reports that have continued to show some signs of growth.

Net general revenue collections were up 1.9 percent, a little over $154 million, from last year as of May 9, according to a report from the Department of Revenue. This year’s budget was built on an assumption that revenue would grow 1.7 percent. The newly approved budget, which takes effect July 1, calls for growth of around 2 percent.

The new budget includes funding for repairs to the I-70 bridge at Rocheport and other bridge projects, plus matching funds for local road projects. It includes an increase in funding for rural broadband projects and $8 million for flood relief along the Missouri River.

Higher education also received increased funding in the new budget, along with more transportation funding for K-12 districts.

Late Thursday night, the House passed Gov. Mike Parson’s package of incentive grants, which includes four pieces of legislation, in an attempt to advance a potential $1 billion expansion of a General Motors plant in Wentzville. The proposal now goes to the Senate, where it has met some resistance, though this was before the GM project was announced.

Parson, who has been pushing workforce development all year, has included some of his proposals in that package, including funding for a Fast Track program, which would provide grants for Missouri residents ages 25 and older to receive training or additional education in identified high-demand fields.

“We are now one step closer to passing one of the most comprehensive workforce and economic development proposals that proves to the country that Missouri is open for business,” Parson said in a news release. “Missouri will soon have the tools to compete and win big for jobs and growth across the entire state.”

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit,