On Tuesday, June 23, 2015, Highland Park High School graduated 89 students from the Class of 2015, in a ceremony reflecting the class’s four years of growth, accomplishments, and relationships. The white-and-red robed seniors received their diplomas, as they were applauded by the district’s board of education members, school administrators, faculty members, and classmates.
The graduation celebration, which took place in the high school auditorium (because of the severe storm threat), began with a short performance from the school’s concert band and choir, after which salutatorian Sarah Cheng spoke to the audience about her memorable high school moments — moments that mainly “centered around [her love of] food.”
Then, after a song from the Master Chorale, Class President Courtney Stevenson stepped to the podium and reflected on her classmates’ accomplishments throughout their final year. Ms. Stevenson included their winning Spirit Week (a school-wide, week-long competition between grades), the production of spring play Beauty and the Beast, their senior trip, and more.
Valedictorian Lucas Irvine then spoke about his takeaways from the last four years of school. “Throughout high school,” he began, “I have had the privilege of witnessing my classmates achieve success beyond societal definition. Every parent here should be proud.”
Board of Education President Adam Sherman discussed the potential and responsibility of the members of the class of 2015 to have a positive impact on their community and their world. The class, he said, was entering a phase of their lives when they have an opportunity to change things for the better.
Principal Lassiter highlighted his personal connection to the graduating class. It was a class he worked alongside since they were 8th graders. “As OWLS, you should be filled with pride being a Highland Park graduate should give you,” he said, calling the class by the school’s nickname “Owls.”
Superintendent Israel Soto, who examined the seniors’ transition from high school to adulthood. “Life has many seasons, and you are finishing one tonight,” Mr. Soto told the seniors. “Tomorrow, you’re going to start another season, and each season in life is beautiful. … Congratulations to all, and I wish you the best.”
Class advisor Angela Harper spoke to the audience about her year-long connection with the class. At the beginning of the year, Ms. Harper was asked to take over as advisor of the Class of 2015’s advisor. Despite initial hesitation, she grew to appreciate her decision. “I really enjoyed our 10 months,” Ms. Harper told the class. “[My] bond with you is so tight.”
It wasn’t, however, until the awarding of diplomas that the excitement level in the room really reached a climax. Harper stood behind the podium ready to read the list of names, while Sherman, Lassiter, Soto, and Assistant Principal Caitlin Brady stood in front of a table adorned with diplomas, ready to congratulate the graduates. The audience rose and cellphones emerged, and the seniors formed a line alongside the side of the auditorium.
The rythmic exchange began when Ms. Harper first introduced Hillel Adiv and ended when she called Chris Zhou, with 87 other seniors in between walking up, across, and down the stage. Mr. Sherman handed each senior his/her diploma, while Mr. Lassiter, Mr. Soto, and Ms. Brady shook the hands of each graduate. Many graduates then went to Harper and gave her a hug, before returning to their seats to applaud their fellow classmates.
The emotions of family and friends could be felt during the roll call, with shouts and exclamations further punctuating a celebratory evening. The new graduates returned to their seats, and caps were tossed, cheers were heard, and pictures were taken. It was joyous occasion for all involved — the official ending of high School for the Class of 2015.