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Local seniors celebrate unique high school experiences during graduation ceremonies

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Local seniors celebrate unique high school experiences during graduation ceremonies

The New Trier class of 2023 celebrated on Sunday, May 29, after an unprecedented high school experience in which their freshman year was interrupted by the COVID pandemic. 

After spending much of that time apart, as seniors, they were united in celebration on graduation day at NOW! Arena in Hoffman Estates. 

Principal Denise Dubravec began the commencement ceremony by praising the class of 2023 for their continued practice of humility, curiosity and caring during their time as students at New Trier.

New Trier graduate Clare Finnigan smiles walking away with her diploma on May 27.

“Humility, curiosity and caring are not merely traits, they are choices you make every day. They are actions you take, the words you speak and the way you treat others,” Dubravec said. “They are the invisible threads that weave together the fabric of society, and my hope is that the class of 2023 will continue in strengthening their tapestry.”

In special moments during the event, seniors Pato Gilchrist and Clay Scherb, both of whom suffered severe spinal injuries within the past year, attended the ceremony and received their diplomas.

The ceremony also included speeches from Superintendent Dr. Paul Sally, President of the New Trier Board of Education Keith Dronen and alumnus speaker Dr. Richard Sherman. 

Seniors Brendan Endre and Ana Ryerson, members of the senior class habitat service project leadership board, presented the senior class gift to Dronen. For the 23rd year, New Trier seniors built a home for a local family in Lake County as their senior service project.

Pato Gilchrist, who was paralyzed by an accident this spring, graduates with his class.

“To my classmates, I would like to say that the hard work you put in with your advisory helped create a place where a family can share love and create memories,” Endre said. “You are now a part of the New Trier alumni, who have had a generational impact on a family and a community.”

The alumnus commencement speaker, Sherman, 73 — an orthopedic surgeon, educator and active community member — specializes in treating sports injuries and various forms of arthritis. For the past 37 years, he has volunteered as New Trier’s team physician in addition to his position as a clinical assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Loyola University Medical Center, where he trains orthopedic surgery residents. 

Sherman highlighted New Trier’s worldwide reputation of excellence with an anecdote in which a stranger commented on his New Trier sports medicine shirt when he was recently traveling abroad.

He recalled the passionate and prideful spirit of New Trier that has persisted since he was in high school and encouraged students to embody that spirit in their futures.

“Continue to do what’s right,” Sherman said. “Your family, your community and New Trier expect you to do no less.”

Dr. Richard Sherman speaks to New Trier High School’s class of 2023.

Jeremy Worth delivered the senior commencement speech, along with sign language translation from another senior. He spoke about his time in the Enriching Lives through Service program, where he was paired with a student with disabilities and they fostered a friendship throughout his time at New Trier.

Worth urged his classmates to help those who are different from them, to take risks and find their niche when it comes to contributing to humanity.

“As you move on to the next chapter of your life, remember that embracing differences, taking risks and valuing your impact on others will provide you with a far more fulfilling and meaningful life,” Worth said.

LOYOLA ACADEMY

Loyola Academy seniors smile for the camera during their commencement on May 20 at Welsh-Ryan Arena. | Photos Submitted

Loyola Academy, of Wilmette, honored the 476 members of the class of 2023 during a commencement ceremony May 20 at Northwestern University’s Welsh-Ryan Arena. 

“The conclusion of one journey…the beginning of another,” Principal Charles Heintz said during his address. “… While academic details will fade, I promise that you will remember the people you encountered. The friends you made, the lively banter with your teachers, the moments that took your breath away and the moments you reached for the mountaintop: Cherish those moments for a lifetime.”

Valedictorian Jack Fitzgerald, who will attend Northwestern University, spoke to his classmates about their next steps and how they are enabled by Loyola Academy.

“We are all being sent out into the world, but we can always return to our community at Lake and Laramie. Because at the end of the day, Loyola is not a place; it is a people,” he said. “It is the students, faculty, staff, and alumni that make Loyola what it is. You may be a Hoosier, Eagle, or a Hawkeye tomorrow, but you will always be a Rambler. 

“So, I say to you, class of 2023: Give the world all that you got. Now is the time to be women and men for others, lift others up with you, and give the world all that you have.”

Jack Fitzgerald, the class valedictorian, addresses his classmates at the event.

During the ceremony, Heintz also presented the Graduate at Graduation Award to two “well-rounded seniors”: Hope Donnelly (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Luke Hughes (Georgetown University). 

The Educator of the Year honor went to science teacher Haley Yanarella.

View Loyola’s graduation ceremony HERE and a list of graduates and more HERE. 

HIGHLAND PARK HIGH SCHOOL

Class speaker Yaci Mejia-Paneda talks with her fellow seniors during Highland Park High School’s graduation on May 23.

The 2023 graduating class of Highland Park High School was celebrated during a ceremony on May 23 at Ravinia Festival. 

Principal Debby Finn spoke about the resilience of the seniors, whose high school tenures began in 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and were impacted by the Highland Park shooting in 2023.

“You must have wondered if you ever would get back to a more familiar path,” Finn said about the COVID disruption. “… I would assert you always had your compass in your back pocket. I would assert your compass was working well because you are here tonight at your desired destination Highland Park High School graduation.”

She later added, “The light shines on. We are no longer in the dark. We are here together, smiling and eager to engage in the future.”

Finn presented the 2023 student medal of honor — meant for a well-rounded HPHS senior — to Sophia Labedz.

Student commencement speaker Yaci Mejia-Paneda wished her classmates the best.

“When I think about HIghland Park High School, I think about how you all bring a smile to my face,” she said. “You filled the halls and classrooms with your energy, spirit and passion.

View Highland Park HIgh School’s graduation ceremony HERE.

REGINA DOMINICAN HIGH SCHOOL

Regina Dominican seniors on at their graduation on May 26 in Wilmette.

Regina Dominican High School held its annual graduation ceremonies on May 26-27 at the Wilmette school. 

Alumnae Catherine Garvey Goldthorpe told the class of 2023 how Regina lessons continue to guide her path. 

“While at Regina, you were taught to think independently, be confident, and excel in all you do,” she said. “You were encouraged to be compassionate and kind, and use your gifts and God-given talents to minister and be of service to others. Your faith and these skills and traits will serve you well throughout your life.”

The Principal’s Award was given to senior Mimi Waddel to honor her extraordinary academic achievement.

Rebeca Marqueda was the senior speaker elected by her classmates and “reminded the Class of 2023 how bold, brilliant, and unstoppable they were during their time at Regina,” according to a news release from the school. 

The release says the members of the Regina Dominican class of 2023 were accepted to 144 colleges and universities across the country.

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