Gillespie High School held its 109th annual commencement ceremony for the graduating class of 2017 on Sunday, May 21 inside the high school’s gymnasium with the school’s band and choir programs providing the usual processional pomp and songs.
Despite 89 students listed in the program, only 84 were in attendance and walked across the stage to accept their diploma from school board members of Community Unit School District #7 (Pictures of the presentation of diplomas here). Students received their diplomas in front of more than 500 members of the packed audience and were announced by departing high school principal Lori Emmons.
“Choose wisely,” high school history instructor Jack Burns said in his congratulatory address to the students. “Things around you change, but traditions carry on. The next few years of your life will change. Don’t fret. Do your best and don’t be afraid of failing.”
Gillespie graduated four valedictorians this year and handed out numerous awards and scholarships. Earning valedictorian status for the school this year included Ryan Dopuch and Hannah Doty, who each received a full tuition scholarship to Lewis and Clark Community College, Emily Elizondo and Amanda Schmidt. Each of them gave remarks during the ceremony.
The awards were dispersed to many students among the class, but taking home the top award of United Community Bank’s Student of the Year was Liberty Hartley. Zach Carr received the Illinois Principal’s Award while Emily Barylske, Emily Elizondo, Diana Lienemann, Mari Katich, Kylie Dannis, Tate Wargo, Liberty Hartley, Breanna Heyen, Mya Sudmeier and Chandler McDaniel earned the Chad Ashby Scholarship.
Thomas Jackson received many vocational awards after being introduced by vocational teacher Rick Spencer and honored for welding two cans together. Spencer surprised Jackson along with Gavin Call with the Colonel Leland Ashby Welding Scholarship.
The final Ashby Scholarship, a $2,500 scholarship renewable for four years, was awarded to Rayanne Thompson.
“You own it,” Burns concluded by telling students to own their mistakes. “Be honest and true to yourself despite what others think. The students in this room are wonderful, their bright, insightful, courageous, kind and apparent.”