McHENRY – Morgan Leon gave a frank send-off speech to her fellow McHenry High School West Campus graduates on Thursday night.
“I’m not going to pretend that we’re all best friends here, and that we all love each other, but for right now, I ask you to put aside your differences and just breathe in the moment. How all of us are here together,” she said.
“It is a good place, with good people in it. ... Don’t forget that. ... I just want you all to know that you are part of something,” Leon said.
Leon, headed to the Art Institute of Chicago, peppered her address to the Class of 2015 with realistic advice.
She applauded those who had made mistakes, for they, she said, had probably learned a lot about themselves.
She encouraged fellow graduates to focus on the things they could control in their future – their choices and their reactions to the inevitable chaos that comes with living.
“How we respond will determine our happiness,” Leon said.
“We are given an opportunity to learn from our mistakes until the very end,” she reminded her class.
Both Leon and fellow commencement speaker, graduate Liesl Zastrow, also encouraged this year’s 390 graduates not to forget their shared foundations as McHenry High School Warriors.
While McHenry High School West’s commencement ceremonies do not typically name a valedictorian and salutatorian, they are not without honors for academic achievers.
Before diplomas were handed out Thursday night, 70 students were presented with medals for achieving grade point averages of 3.8 or better on a 4.0 scale.
Eighteen students were awarded medals for achieving a GPA of 3.8 or more, 31 students received medals for earning GPAs of 4.0 to 4.299, and 21 students earned medals for GPAs of 4.3 or higher.
Also honored were a record 110 students who graduated with Distinguished Warrior Honors. A record 28 percent of this year’s class was represented in that group, according to Assistant Principal Amber Bowgren.
To earn the distinction as a Distinguished Warrior, each student had to meet certain grade point average, attendance, school participation and behavioral criteria during their four years of high school.
This year’s group clocked more than 4,500 hours of community service, Bowgren said.
Also honored during the ceremony were eight members of the Class of 2015 who will enlist or have already joined the United States Armed Forces.
The names of the students were not provided upon a request from the Northwest Herald, however the Army, Army National Guard, Air Force and Marines were listed among the branches to which those students are bound.
Looking ahead for the graduating seniors, McHenry High School Principal Marsha Potthoff encouraged the Class of 2015 to remember that they are supported by family and friends, that they should not be afraid to love, take risks and live life deeply.
Her short speech was inspired by the lyrics to “I lived,” by the band One Republic.
The high school chorus sang the song after her speech.
The evening ended in McHenry High School West tradition. Each happy graduate moved their tassel across his or her motor board, and on the count of three, threw their black hats into the air with a roaring cheer.