It is about this time of year when graduation ceremonies are held. For students at Lincoln-Way West High School, the occasion sought to commemorate success achieved both inside and outside of the classroom.
Despite periods of light rain, the weather did not dampen the spirits of those graduating or attending the ceremony May 30. More than 400 students were cleared to graduate with the Class of 2017.
“No matter how long you’ve been a Warrior, we’ve enjoyed being part of your high school years, and we’re proud to call you a graduate of Lincoln-Way,” said Dr. Monica Schmitt, principal of Lincoln-Way West High School.
On behalf of those graduating this year, the senior class officers presented the Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 Board of Education and administration with a limestone panel. It is displayed at the school’s main entrance.
Class President Zachary Paymaster addressed the crowd and recounted some words of wisdom spoken to him.
“In the spring of my junior year, my economics teacher… told me my class something very simple, but very profound. He told us that the days are long but the years are short. At the time, I did not quite understand the importance of those words, but as you stand here today I don’t think they’ve ever been more relevant.”
Many will groan on a Monday morning and stare at the clock on a Friday afternoon. Many will stay awake late into the night writing an essay and rise early the next day to go to practice.
“Somewhere in between our daily routines, though, between the homework and the practices and the rehearsals and the meetings, time gets lost and that’s what makes the years so short,” Paymaster said. “We become so used to our schedules and unaware of the time that is passing right before us that we don’t realize it until it’s happened. There can be 30 games in a season, three musicals and plays in a year, and 180 afternoons of lunch with our friends, but the reality of how fleeting those things are does not show itself until we’ve played our last game, completed our last performance, cracked our last joke at the lunch table, and finished our last chapter in the classroom.”
Paymaster said it’s astonishing to think this is only the beginning for he and his classmates.
“The real world is ready for us, and I have absolutely no idea what to expect, but what I do know is that our life after Lincoln-Way will continue for many, many days and many, many years” he said. “What I hope is that those days and those years are spent maximizing every wonderful thing life has to offer. The days don’t have to be long and the years don’t have to be short. How to accomplish that is different for everyone.”
Paymaster added that his hope is that people will find their path in this world.
Paymaster is set to attend the University of Nebraska in the fall to study marketing and political science.
Another Class President Evan Mitchell, of New Lenox, spoke of he and his peers first days on campus and said they were ready to face the challenge.
“To us, seeing the year 2017 [posted above our bleacher section] looked as if it would never come,” Mitchell said. “It almost felt as if the Chicago Cubs would win a World Series before then. We sang the fight song, adjusted with our new school, and started our new journey. Freshman year varied very greatly for all of us as we started high school, but we all found our niche—whether it was in the classroom, athletics, theatre, friend groups, clubs, and the list can go on.”
While at Lincoln-Way, Mitchell participated in cross country, track, student council, Homecoming Olympics and Principal’s Cabinet.
Mitchell wanted to leave a few words for his peers to ponder as they look to move forward.
“As a class, we have made our mark at [Lincoln-Way] West and the walls with our names on it will show it forever,” he said. “Here, at West, our journey may be coming to an end, but our journey is our choice. Make it a great one or not—the choice is yours.”
Mitchell is set to attend Bradley University where he will run cross country and track.
“The Lincoln-Way is motto by our deeds, we are known,” said Joseph Kirkeeng, board president of the Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 Board of Education. “However, upon your graduation, it is transformed to by your deeds, we will be known. I am proud of you. We—the community—are proud of you. We are here to support you, and together, we are ready to celebrate your success.”
One-by-one, each graduating student took to the stage to receive a diploma.
To date, students graduating in the Class of 2017 have accepted more $8.6 million in scholarships.