MARENGO – On the grand stage she’d earned, in a gym rendered standing-room only, Jessica Villie figured she’d take a risk.
So, mid-speech, to drive home a point about facing challenges head on, the valedictorian pulled out three hackysacks and started juggling.
“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you,” she said, balls in the air, eyes focused straight ahead.
Villie kept the theme going, passing her hackysacks on to a classmate and bringing up a teacher who each juggled at her sides while she spoke. Not long after, Villie and about 200 others crossed the stage in their school’s maroon and white, officially becoming 2013 Marengo High School graduates.
It was a loud, boisterous crowd that packed the high school’s gym Sunday afternoon for a ceremony that included its fair share of highlights.
Villie had her human props juggle extra high, and then drop to their knees to juggle low, because, she said, the future will hold its fair share of each. When she finished her half-speech, half-demonstration, Villie’s classmates recognized her thoughtfulness with a standing ovation.
As she exited the stage, a couple of her classmates surprised Principal Scott Shepard with a couple parting gifts. Shepard, who’s been at the school about five years, will take over as principal of Crystal Lake South next year.
The senior class presented him with gator meat, since he’s heading on to the home of the Gators, and an authentic indian head dress, to remember the school he came from – the Indians.
“This is a great place, and the small-town feel really comes through in expressions like that,” Shepard said after the ceremony.
Shepard said moving on would be bittersweet. He said consistent high GPA and ACT performance was “not an accident.”
This year, the senior class averaged over 22 on the ACT. About 40 percent of them are moving on to four-year universities, and about 35 percent will head to technical, trades or two-year colleges. About 15 percent will enter the workforce.
Salutatorian Susan Anthony urged her classmates to remember where they came from as they move on to whatever next step they’ve chosen.
“Share your crazy stories, your funny ones, and even your sad ones, because those are the events that made you who you are today,” Anthony said.