The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Illini West Says Goodbye to First Graduating Class

By: Mitch Worley, The Quill

Although everything didn't go as planned for Illini West's first ever commencement ceremony, the mood for the occasion was the same mixture of excitement, anxiousness, and jubilation that one attending a graduation would expect.

The original plan was for the event to be held at Fuzz Burges Field, but the threat of inclement weather forced a rather large group of people to the Illini West Gymnasium to witness the 100 students making the transition from high school student, to full-fledged adults.

With many people aware of the limited capacity in relation to the number of potential attendees, people began filing in almost an hour and a half early for the ceremony.

As customary, "Pomp and Circumstance" paraded in the graduates in pairs, followed by the presentation of colors by the American Legion and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Stephanie Smiddy lead the invocation, and Co-Presidents of the Class of 2008, Sabe Goetz and Alyssa Swanson, welcomed those in attendance with a word of thanksgiving on behalf of the whole class, and enlightened those outside of the high school how well the school came together over the past year.

Mr. Pat Raftis and Mr. Greg Hoener were next to address the crowd by not only seconding the sentiments made in the quick introduction by Swanson and Goetz, but gave a great deal of insight and wisdom to the graduates to guide them in their journeys throughout their future endeavors.

Both speeches were rather humorous and seemed to personify the free-spirited nature that accompanied Illini West's Class of 2008. Mr. Raftis touched on two central points throughout his time at the podium, which are ideals that are uncharacteristically spoken of during a commencement ceremony.

With a bevy of decisions seemingly looming quickly for high school graduates upon entering the real world, Raftis' words helped to comfort the graduates and stated it was less important to fret over the future because, "life is much simpler than it seems."

He went on to also remark upon that sentiment that, "Life is never as good as you think it's going to be, or as bad as you think either."

Greg Hoener followed Raftis by keying in on graduation as being a moment of reflection and thanking everyone that helped them to achieve this milestone, at the same time looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead of the graduates.

After the speeches were finished, graduates with qualifying GPAs were honored for their academic achievement. No valedictorians or salutatorians were named, rather the students fell into three distinct categories based upon cumulative grade point averages.

Donivia Cecil, Kortney Freeman, Haeli Johnson, and Matt Snyder graduated Cum Laude with a GPA between 3.62 and 3.74 overall, and Sabe Goetz, Amber Jacoby, and Sarah Link were honored with Magna Cum Laude distinctions with a GPA in the range of 3.81 and 3.89.

The highest honor was given to those with a grade point average of 3.9 and 4.0, receiving the designation of Summa Cum Laude. That group included Shelby Bartlett, Christina Bostrom, Amy Byers, Cassie Folkerts, Mark Frakes, Katherine Gambrell, Mackenzie Ourth, Lindsey Pollock, Tori Rehahn, Jennifer Siegworth, Stephanie Smiddy, Alyssa Swanson, and Lacey Wisslead.

Upon presenting those graduating with top honors, Darrell Kraft presented the American Legion Good Citizenship Awards to Lindsey Pollock, and Matt Frakes.

Assistant Principal Kris Lewis stepped to the podium next to hand out the Daughters of America and Sons of America Awards, being given to Katherine Gambrell and Sabe Goetz, respectively.

As Assistant Principal Lewis transitioned from the award ceremony to the presentation of the class, the 100 students of the Class of 2008 delayed the ceremony a bit as they prematurely began to celebrate their graduation by plastering each other with silly string. In good humor, Assistant Principal Lewis laughed and said, "We're not done yet!"

Class Secretary Cassie Folkerts read off the list of those in the class as they walked across to get their diplomas, followed by the benediction by Justin Trapp, and concluding remarks by Lindsey Pollock and Lacey Wisslead.

Even with the cramped and steamy conditions, the indoor ceremony still was a great success, and left many lasting images in the minds of those that attended to witness the first graduation of the newly converged Illini West High School.

Congratulations to the Class of 2008 on your commencement and good luck in all future endeavors

Sabe Goetz and Alyssa Swanson welcome the crowd in their introduction on behalf of their Illini West Class of 2008.

The first ever Illini West Graduating Class of 2008 jumped the gun with the "Silly String" before receiving their diplomas.