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McHenry West grads prepared for ‘next step’

Published: Thursday, May 16, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 16, 2013 1:20 p.m. CDT
(Sarah Nader –
Derek Macek, 18, of McHenry laughs with friends Wednesday before McHenry West High School's commencement. Macek plans to study civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The all black look just did not fit Daniel Whiteside. 

So for four years, Whiteside made sure to be as active as he could at McHenry High School West Campus and the result was as colorful as he envisioned. Whiteside graduated Wednesday wearing a blue National Honor Society sash, an orange Distinguished Warriors sash and a colorful rope for his work in theater. 

He was one of many to graduate with more than just a black robe and one of more than 350 to graduate from the west campus in the Class of 2013. 

“It’s always been a goal of mine to graduate with something on here other than black,” Whiteside said of his robe. “It’s exciting it’s finally here.”

While some students such as Whiteside had been active in McHenry schools for years, others were sad to leave a place they felt they were just starting to know.

Alicia Scalzitti came to McHenry High School West her sophomore year and realized it was different than most high schools. She said the passionate faculty is the reason she developed a fire for photography and was accepted into the Art Institute of Schaumburg. 

“This was different from other schools, so much more than the gossip,” she said. “It was wonderful.”

Calvin Quarterman let his classmates know the wonderful experiences would not end with the conclusion of their senior year in high school. After being selected as the student to address the class by a committee of faculty and students, Quarterman said he knew he had to use the honor to let his friends know Wednesday was just the beginning. 

“We all had great memories here and we all had our own things we pursued,” he said. “We were provided a good education that will make the next step even better.”

Gilbert Matias plans on taking a lot of steps in the next phase of his life as he will run track for the Illinois State University Redbirds. Matias said sports played just as large of a role as academics in his high school career and he was thankful his time as McHenry High School West prepared him for NCAA Division I competition. 

“I’ve grown with a lot of the people on the track team since elementary school,” he said. “[Graduation] has come faster than I expected.”

Paula Cooper, the school psychologist, said she expected the Class of 2013 to achieve great accomplishments.

“Every class has its own character and different aspirations,” she said. “I saw a lot of kids here that faced adversity and rose above difficulties.”

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