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West Leyden High School Class of ’24 encouraged to ’embrace life’s challenges’ with open arms – Chicago Tribune


During his commencement address to the West Leyden High School Class of 2024, a school district leader encouraged the graduates to chart their own course forward.

“Success cannot be defined by others. It can only be defined by you,” said Gregory Ignoffo, president of the Leyden High School District 212 Board of Education. “It is overcoming the difficulties that make success that much more rewarding.”

West Leyden is one of two schools in the district. Commencement for the graduating class of 381 students was held May 22 at Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont.

Student speaker Vincent Mallari urged his fellow graduates to take the invaluable lessons imparted by their parents to make a difference in the future.

“I encourage you to embrace life’s challenges with arms wide open, to dream boldly and to pursue your passions relentlessly. Remember, we are not alone on this journey. We carry with us the love, support and guidance of those who walked the path of life before us,” Mallari said in his commencement address.

Tatiana Bonuma is leaving District 212 in the coming days. But as she, herself, transitions out of the district, headed to be superintendent of Maine Township High School District 207, Bonuma told the West Leyden graduates that while this chapter was closing for them, another one was commencing.

“Transitions can be scary and overwhelming, but transitions can also be exciting,” the departing district leader said in her commencement speech. “Oftentimes transitions challenge us in ways that we cannot even imagine. Transitions can also have a way of helping us figure out what really matters.”

Student speaker Maya Rubio reflected on the people she said influenced her during her time at West Leyden High School, located in Northlake.

“I have seen teachers treat students with insurmountable respect. I appreciate those who honor and educate about all the different lives at Leyden. Respect transcends cultural, economic and social differences. It is absolute and timeless,” said Rubio.

In addition to the students moving on and Bonuma departing, commencement marked the end of an era for the head of the district’s music department and bands.

Ignoffo noted at the graduation that Bryan Miller, music department chair and director of bands for West and East Leyden high schools, led his last performance at the West Leyden ceremony before retiring after 30-plus years.

West Leyden Principal Arturo Senteno recognized other retirees, including John Kmet, science department chair who has worked for the district for more than 30 years, and math teacher Helen Lindahl, who has been at West Leyden for 23 of her 36 years of teaching.

Also leaving is Randy Olinski, supervisor of building and grounds, retiring after 34 years.

“Your tribe isn’t just a group of people. It’s a community that shapes your identity and provides a sense of belonging and purpose,” Senteno said at commencement. “Your tribe should be a source of unwavering support, guiding you through both the joys and challenges that lie ahead.”

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