EVANSTON — Classes all over Evanston celebrated commencement this past weekend, reflecting on the past but turning their eyes toward the future.
Evanston High School held its commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 3, and throngs of people attended to honor the high school graduates’ achievements. And the theme the student speakers focused on was the power of individual stories among the greater story of the Class of 2017.
“There’s something to be said for the stories being created together. We share a lot of memories, some as a class, some as a school and some even as a country,” valedictorian Benjamin Fuller said in his speech, in which he talked about the influence of social media on the stories and lives of the graduates.
He shared a few stories from the last few years, which have been preserved via videos, photos, Snapchats, Tweets and more. Some were moments of hilarity, as when fellow graduate Rocky Powell shaved Red Devils’ “E” into his chest or other students performed similar acts of school spirit. Others were more appalling, as when Fuller’s Instagram was hacked. The gleaming thread throughout all of those events, though, was that they were tied together not only through the medium of preservation but through the connectedness of those involved.
“There’s something really powerful about being able to see what the whole world is doing,” Fuller said, “but there’s something even more powerful about being able to see what your closest friends are doing, even if they’re across the world. Social media doesn’t take away individuality; it preserves it, in pictures, quotes and even ‘dank memes.’”
He also remembered the last four years of innovation and exploration not only in individual lives but in school and academics, in which the 2017 class was pushed to pioneer several new ideas and education strategies.
“They’ve tested some terrible ideas on us like 21 and Advocacy,” Fuller said, “but they also tested some great ones, like STEM and the Chromebooks and the senior mentorship program. The younger kids will definitely not forget us.”
As he finished his speech, he reminded his technologically savvy class to remember the value in real life as well as the beauty of preserved memories.
“Don’t value memories or transient paths over friends and fellow grads,” Fuller said. “The vagaries of Instagram are no match for the enduring memories that we’ve created together.”
Salutatorian Lauren Broadhead also spoke to her class, remembering the stories, competitions, fads and fun of the last 13 years, which she described as passing by at the speed of light.
Some moments of high school stood out with particular strength. In the last four years at EHS, the 2017 class has tested out Advocacy, Chromebooks, senior mentoring and STEM and has seen the resurrection of the EHS motto, “Toward the Highest,” and those endeavors — whether successful or not — have left an impression on the students and shaped the education of those following afterward. The class and school have also seen a resurgence of school pride.
“We killed it in the student section, especially at regional volleyball,” Broadhead recalled. “Not many student sections have ever been filled with the entire student body.”
Other moments were more fleeting, such as the fads and pranks and celebrity crushes — yet the enduring theme, Broadhead said, has been a constant pursuit of betterment and unity.
“Adaptation is something we’re incredible at,” she said, “and likewise, we will always aim toward the highest, because we are competitive but also cohesive.”
“The last class of only 20th century kiddos will succeed in the world,” Broadhead predicted. “We learned how to operate computers as toddlers. We use phones like an extra appendage. We know what records and tapes and CDs are and yet ... carry entire music libraries with us. We grew up and the world grew closer and closer to our fingertips. Most importantly, though, we grew closer and closer to reshaping this world in a hundred positive ways.”
Student body president Kelsey Diaz gave a speech as well, drawing on Mitch Albom’s book “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” for inspiration. In the book, she said, Albom makes the point that everyone plays in multiple bands throughout their lives.
“Class of 2017, you were one of my bands,” she said, “and I hope in your future, and in my future, we continue to play our music together.”
Principal Merle Lester said that Fuller intends to go to Lafayette College in eastern Pennsylvania to study mathematics and computer science, and Broadhead will go on a mission for her church before going to Utah State University to study pediatric psychology. Diaz will be going to Ireland for her senior trip and plans to study geology at the University of Wyoming.
Superintendent Ryan Thomas also commended the students and the staff for their dedication over the last 13 years, giving special thanks to the staff and employees.
“Now we can say that these students are ready to enter the world of work, enter college, enter a career, the military, trade or technical school, which has been our mission for the last 13 years,” he said. “… I hope they have a happy, healthy and safe future.”
Before the graduates received their diplomas, several students received special recognition for awards and achievements.
Rylee Berger and Chandler Barker received the Lois Michelsteller Citizenship awards; Hayden Crofts and Taryn Mayer received the Outstanding All Around Male and Female Athlete awards; and Taylor Dennis and Morgan Crompton received the Outstanding All Around Male and Female awards.
The top 10 percent of the class were Chandler Ernest Barker, Jesse Dean Barker, Rylee Kay Berger, Lauren Broadhead, Hayden Smith Crofts, Taylor Trish Crofts, Morgan Anna Crompton, Aaron Nash Fansher, Benjamin Niklas Fuller, Tiana Jo Griffith, Allison Haack, Elijah William Kimmel, Samuel Craig Lester, Austin James Mathson, Makayla Maree Nelson, Rachel Mills Peterson, Laural Elizabeth Schmidt, Savannah Delores Sharp, Nathan Brock Sponenburgh and Braden Reed Tethal.