CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake Central High School Principal Steven Olson had one last request of the seniors in the Class of 2013 Saturday.
He asked the soon-to-be graduates to live as thermostats and not thermometers.
Olson told the departing class, a generation of young adults who grew up with Google, Facebook, Twitter and countless blogs, to remember to keep a clear mind in a world of information overload and have the courage to be independent thinkers.
He told the 372 students to be the thermostats that set the climate and not thermometers that just reflect what is around them.
"Are you going to be the one being influenced or an influencer?" Olson asked the graduates. "Please continue to question ... why things are the way they are."
But Saturday's graduation celebration was just as much about the Class of 2013's accomplishments as it was about its future. From the historical run of the football team to the more than $500,000 earned in combined scholarships for those continuing their education, students reflected on a memorable senior year.
"Many of us are caught up in the fear of the future," said salutatorian Ryan O' Toole, who will head to Marquette University to study biomedical engineering. "We need to live in the moment and take it all in."
Valedictorian Ann Bandolik, who will attend Durham University in England to study economics, said none the accomplishments from her class would have been possible without the teachers, staff and community support.
At a time when many districts and schools are cutting programs, she said school leaders and community members rallied to support important extracurricular activities and even add to programs such as advanced placement courses.
"None of this would be possible without the encouragement from our teachers and staff," Bandolik said. "Thank you for not just keeping the lights on, but for keeping them shining bright."
For some, graduation was a seemingly distant destination that arrived surprisingly quickly. Grace Roth, one of 31 students to graduate with a grade point average of 4.0 or higher, said it was a bittersweet day.
"I couldn't count the number of Facebook statuses and tweets counting down to graduation," she said. "Now that we're here it's a little bit scary. ... It's not always easy to realize how great high school is."