McHENRY – Molly Wolfe stood in the north parking lot at West Campus on Thursday night, tying two bobbing helium balloons to the windshield wipers of a silver Pontiac.
“Oh, I hope they don’t fly away,” she said, as a stiff breeze blew in the chilly night air.
Inside, her nephew Cory Anderson was among 350 seniors about to be pronounced McHenry High School graduates.
“I’m so happy for him,” Wolfe said. “In the beginning, he wasn’t really into school, but in the last couple of years, he really got into it.”
More than an hour earlier, Anderson and his classmates had gathered in a hallway on the building’s west side, around the corner from the entrance to the gym.
Eighteen-year-olds Phil Shelton and Nick Almazan, both of McHenry, sat on the floor with their backs to the white-painted cinder block wall, as other members of the 2014 class board milled nearby.
Class board members would be the first to enter, so they could turn and greet their peers as each found his or her seat for commencement.
Class secretary Kala Ibarra, of Wonder Lake, said she looks forward to attending South Dakota State University, where she also hopes to manage the wrestling team this fall.
Pulling off her mortarboard to reveal short brown hair, fellow board member Gracie Holmes, of McHenry, said she’ll always treasure her memories of participating in St. Baldrick’s, a fundraiser for pediatric cancer research.
“I hope to start a [St. Baldrick’s] event at Texas State,” she said.
Inside the gym, Char Cieply, of Palatine, sat in the bleachers, a brightly wrapped gift at her feet.
“I bought her ‘The Alchemist,’ ” Cieply said of the book she’d brought for her niece, Amanda Banks, of McHenry. “It’s about following your heart and finding your passion. I told her that if you follow your passion you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Their cameras, smartphones and tablets raised to capture the moment, moms, dads, relatives and friends packed the bleachers, waving to their respective grads when they could catch an eye.
For some of the seniors, it would be the last night they’d spend time in the gym with the Warrior Fight Song writ large on the east wall, a thought that was not lost in the addresses of student speaker Omar “Axell” Cazares and class President Mark Simon.
“We’ve spent a lot of time here,” Simon said. “Sometimes it feels like we spent more time here than at home, but because of that, we’ve made a lot of memories.”
Simon congratulated his classmates and wished them the best of luck.
“I hope we’ll continue to hear from each other,” he said, “as we continue to achieve greatness.”