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‘We hope that the world is ready to fully hear you and see you’ – Chicago Tribune

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Despite the East Leyden High School Class of 2024 having started freshman year with remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hope kept students going for four years, school officials said.

Commencement for the graduating class of 410 was held May 21 at Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont.

Student speaker Reeve Del Pilar addresses fellow members of his East Leyden High School Class of 2024 during the May 21, 2024 graduation ceremony at Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont. (John Konstantaras/Pioneer-Press)
A student accepts his diploma during the East Lyden High School graduation ceremony at the Rosemont Theatre on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 in Rosemont, Illinois. ( John Konstantaras-Pioneer-Press ) - PPN-L-fhj-leyden-east-graduation 00077682A
More than 400 students were part of the East Leyden High School graduating Class of 2024. Commencement was held May 21, 2024 at Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont. (John Konstantaras/Pioneer-Press)
Students listen to the East Lyden High School graduation ceremony at the Rosemont Theatre on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 in Rosemont, Illinois. ( John Konstantaras-Pioneer-Press ) - PPN-L-fhj-leyden-east-graduation 00077682A
Commencement for the East Leyden High School Class of 2024 was held May 21, 2024 at Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont. (John Konstantaras/Pioneer-Press)

“It is remarkable to think about our accomplishments – fueled by hope – especially when we started so hopelessly. But we found hope. We found it here, in each other. Hope drives us to be better,” student speaker Reeve Del Pilar said in his commencement address.

Anthony Villalobos, Jennifer Boyas and Victoria Lorens presented a multi-lingual welcome to the graduation ceremony.

Principal Dominic Manola recognized the collective academic efforts of the graduating class, adding up the money students have received in scholarships as they look to continue their education.

“The Class of 2024 has accomplished so much in their time at East Leyden, and we’ve been rewarded by earning a total of nearly $2 million in grants and scholarships to colleges and universities across the country – and this number continues to rise,” Manola said, speaking at the graduation ceremony.

East Leyden is one of two schools that make up Leyden High School District 212. Superintendent Nick Polyak talked about graduation being a time to look back at the past four years and an opportunity to look ahead to where the graduates would be going next.

“How you spend your time and the life that you lead after Leyden will have a direct impact on your family and maybe even your children, your grandchildren and generations to come,” Polyak said. “Lead your life in a way that will make your family and your school proud.”

Student speaker Lena Trinh shared her thoughts on looking forward.

“High school taught us that life can feel like it’s flying by. But, we learned that we shouldn’t just let it fly by. We learned that we should soak in life, seize life and fly with life,” Trinh stated at the commencement.

Manola also recognized social studies teacher Rob Fowler, literacy department Chair Jane Hyink, science department Chair John Kmet, music department head Bryan Miller, counselor and senior class sponsor Chris Schulz and English teacher Linda Smith, all of whom are retiring at the end of this 2023-2024 school year.

Gregory Ignoffo, president of the District 212 Board of Education, said each student has unique talents – which need to be identified, nurtured and honed.

“Today we collectively celebrate your achievements. We celebrate each other and our relationships and helping you succeed. We are all very proud of you and what you have accomplished and for where you are going,” said Ignoffo.

Manola offered the Class of 2024 some words of empowerment, addressing the students for the last time as one of their school leaders.

“Graduates, I know you’ll take with you your involvement, your kindness and your individuality in life and create a path that will continue to make us all proud,” the principal said.

“In no way do we need to hope that you’re ready for the world but, rather, we hope that the world is ready to fully hear you and see you because it will be a better place if it does.”



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