WOODSTOCK — Patty Sindelar leaned down from the podium where moments before administrators and student representatives had addressed the Woodstock High School Class of 2014.
“You’re gonna be great,” the principal’s secretary said, looking into the eyes of new graduate Dan Cencula, who looked up and smiled as his blue gown-bedecked peers began to scatter.
“Thank you,” the 19-year-old said.
Cencula is headed to nursing classes at McHenry County College this fall, and also is considering a writing career after a certain teacher helped him to discover his flair. Like the rest of his classmates, he walked out of Woodstock High School on Sunday en route to begin the next phase of his journey.
Moments before, Principal Corey Tafoya told the crowd gathered in the James M. Shipley Memorial Gymnasium that the Class of 2014 is a standout for many reasons, including reaping an impressive $4 million in scholarships among its 234 members.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of your class and the men and women you’ve grown to be,” Tafoya said.
Kelly Whitacre of Woodstock was among the many smiling family members and friends who packed the bleachers for the ceremony. She and her husband, Steven, were there to watch their eldest son, Dylan Whitacre, receive his diploma. Also on hand were Dylan’s brother, Ryan, grandmother, Vickie Tatro, and Dylan's girlfriend, Briana Chinlund.
“I’m super excited,” Kelly Whitacre said. “I’m so proud of him.”
Memories of high school and graduation always will be special, said senior class president Mary Grace Mathison during her address. But the future is an enticing blank slate, she added.
“You see us as you want to see us … a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal,” she said. “This quote from ‘The Breakfast Club’ defines most of our high school careers in one way or another. We feel labeled, we label others, we settle into our roles amongst our peers and stay there.
“For some of us, this is a good thing. It’s comforting,” she continued. “For others, our so-called labels confine us. None of that matters anymore. Our labels no longer apply.”
Class valedictorian Elizabeth Ann Margaret Acosta thanked teachers and parents for their dedication. And Elisabeth Diane Sullivan, IHSA speech state qualifier, urged her classmates to take in the moment before heading out to become those “whose excellence will change the world.”
Also remembered during the ceremony, and awarded posthumous diplomas to rousing applause, were Alec John Kaiser and Jacob Samuel Norys, who died in a 2012 crash.