JOHNSBURG – Eighteen-year-old Aaron Destefano paused for a minute on his way into the Johnsburg High School auditorium.
Most of his classmates already were there, a sea of blue gowns and matching mortarboards on the south side of the theater-in-the-round, awaiting instructions for their late-in-the-day switch from an outdoor to an indoor ceremony.
Destefano stopped to ponder what he’d miss most after graduation. “That’s a good question,” he said. “I think I’ll miss the teachers the most. They were always there for support. It was a really good staff to grow up to.”
Moments later, Destefano and 206 fellow graduates entered their steamy high school gymnasium to whistles, shouts and applause.
Grandparents Barbara and Jules Rothschild were in the midst of the smiling and cheering crowd.
They had traveled to Johnsburg from Des Plaines twice in two days, first to see their grandson Troy Rothschild graduate from eighth grade, and on Friday night to watch as their eldest grandson, Tyler Rothschild, became the first of their grandchildren to graduate high school.
“It makes me wonder where the years have gone,” Barbara Rothschild said.
After Principal Kevin Shelton welcomed the graduates, families and friends, Superintendent Dan Johnson joked about the misguided weather forecast that led to the indoor ceremony.
“So I was watching the radar about 4 o’clock this afternoon,” he said, noting that storms were predicted. “And 45 minutes later, it’s beautiful and 70 degrees. I’m sorry about that.”
Johnson said District 12 was proud of the Class of 2013, which had earned roughly $3.5 million in scholarships.
“You should be proud of the fact that you’re excellent role models,” he told them.
Class Salutatorian Alex Jansen, vice president of the National Honor Society, captain of the soccer team and a participant in numerous other extracurriculars, thanked parents, family and teammates, and singled out faculty member Rob Eastland for special mention.
He urged his classmates to cherish their memories and remember their home.
“In times of your life where you might feel forgotten, walk on with hope in your heart,” he said, “because you never walk alone.”
Principal Shelton recognized valedictorian Anais Hernandez, who did not address the gathering, and then welcomed Class President Jesse Reitz to the podium.
Reitz, a participant in numerous activities and extracurriculars and the son of teachers, injected humor into his praise of all educators. “You dedicated your lives to obnoxious little brats who constantly questioned your intelligence,” he said.
To his classmates, he wished an open-minded future.
“Be sure to live life openly,” he said, “accepting everyone for who they are and what they believe.”