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Stevenson High School Class of 2024 ‘proved themselves worthy’ of graduating after starting during pandemic – Chicago Tribune

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As freshmen, the now-graduating Adlai Stevenson High School Class of 2024 got off to a challenging start – beginning high school amid a global pandemic, in isolation and guided by national, state and local public health instructions.

Now, after overcoming the challenges of that time, the graduates and their family filled the NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates Friday for the commencement ceremony the superintendent said the students are definitely worthy of.

Kendell Williams is a senior speaker at Adlai E. Stevenson High School graduation at NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates on May 24, 2024. (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)
Adlai Stevenson High School graduate Kendell Williams was one of the senior speakers at commencement, held May 24, 2024 at NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates. (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)
Adlai E. Stevenson High School graduation at NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates on May 24, 2024. (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)
The Adlai Stevenson Class of 2024 included 1,100 students. Commencement was held May 24, 2024 at NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates. (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)
Kashyap Rajesh is a senior speaker at Adlai E. Stevenson High School graduation at NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates on May 24, 2024. (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)
Kashyap Rajesh was one of the student speakers for the Adlai E. Stevenson High School Class of 2024. Commencement was held May 24, 2024 at NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)

“I think it’s pretty safe to say that no class in the history of Illinois has got off to a more inauspicious start. It was a challenge for them,” Stevenson High School District 125 Superintendent EricTwadell told Pioneer Press. “They learned great skills of resilience and adaptability and kind of stick–to–itiveness and they did a great job.”

The superintendent said the 1,100 seniors in the graduating class “proved themselves worthy of a four year journey and graduating today. It’s impressive.”

Stevenson mascot Pat Riot entertained the audience Friday, as people started taking their seats for the afternoon ceremony. The Stevenson Graduation Orchestra also performed.

Kendell Williams and Kashyap Rajesh were the senior speakers and both delivered an address. Rajesh talked about the past four years and Williams spoke of the future for her fellow grads.

“So Class of 2024, we began high school in an era of TikTok addictions, a Chiefs Super Bowl victory and two presidential candidates in their late 70s,” said Rajesh. And now we leave in an era of TikTok addictions, a Chiefs Super Bowl victory and the same two presidential candidates.”

The audience laughed.

School leaders boast that 96% of this year’s graduating class is headed to college or trade school. Thirty-seven are National Merit Scholarship finalists.

Many are continuing their education at such schools as University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Chicago, Indiana University, Purdue University, The Ohio State University, Illinois State University, University of Iowa, DePaul University and Loyola University, according to district officials.

Twadell said the graduates, collectively, excelled academically, in extra curricular activities and in sports. He also pointed out their philanthropic efforts.

“Over their four years, they’ve raised over $100,000 for different charities and organizations. So I think that initial adversity (of the pandemic) and challenge and setback turned into something positive for this particular group of kids,” the superintendent said.

Graduate Alexis Trojan, 18, of Hawthorn Woods, reflected on the pandemic and said, “It is so much better being able to be in-person and being able to really like, fully connect with my peers, it’s just been a dream.”

Shreya Patel, Ishita Tyagi and Medha Mamidipaka, all from Buffalo Grove, agreed with Twadell that Stevenson sends a solid message about philanthropy.

“I’m really proud to be in Stevenson,” Patel said. “I really like how they help the community around them a lot and they take care of others.”

Tyagi said, “If you have the privilege, you should be giving back to the community.

“I think it’s really important,” Tyagi added.

Mamidipaka said being at Stevenson, “teaches you a lot for the future because I think, especially in college, there are a lot of ways that you can give back.”

In her address as a senior speaker, Williams also spoke of the influence of TikTok but said that pop culture aside, “Guess what? You’re the author of your story.”

“Do not regret what you have and have not done yet,” Williams said.

Karie Angell Luc is a freelancer.



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