CRYSTAL LAKE – Paula Frey huddled under a blue fleece blanket, which she shared with her mother-in-law, Margy.
They and their husbands had perched lawn chairs at the top of a grassy hill at the northwest end of the Prairie Ridge High School football field in Crystal Lake.
All were on hand to witness the graduation of 18-year-old Sydney Frey, among 396 members of the Class of 2013 who were about to make their burgundy gown-clad entrance to the field under a chilly gray sky.
Paula Frey said she was sad when Sydney’s older brother graduated, but welcomed the occasion Saturday afternoon.
“I’m really excited for her,” she said. “She’s really ready to go on to college.”
Numerous proud parents and relatives soon were snapping photos as the graduates walked by.
Kelsey Bear, who graduated third in her class, was the first of the student speakers.
“This is the moment we’ve been anticipating for four years,” she said, noting that being a part of the Class of 2013 was like being part of a sports team.
“Go out there and be a part of many teams,” she said, “and be the most valuable player you can be.”
Class Valedictorian Amanda Weber challenged her classmates to avoid regret.
“Every day is a great day to be alive,” she said. “Don’t be that guy who wastes your future.”
Also taking the podium was class Salutatorian Margaret Schlofner, a vocalist and thespian who Principal Paul Humpa said had performed on stage in every fine arts production at Prairie Ridge for the last four years.
She challenged each of her peers to come up with a two-word T-shirt slogan that would best describe them.
Offering “spend wisely,” “give back” and “dream big” as some possibilities, she said Prairie Ridge had provided the fabric.
“The style in the front and the words on the shirt are up to you,” she said. “What will yours say?”
Humpa, who is returning to the classroom next year after 12 years as a principal, urged the graduates to view their lives as masterpieces in the making, with each choice and each moment contributing a brush stroke.
And farewell speaker Jack Disselhorst, in homage to “Finding Nemo,” thanked parents and teachers for preparing class members to free themselves from the net.
“Don’t always follow the current,” he said to his classmates. “Sometimes it’s much more fortuitous to swim down.”