EVANSTON — At the beginning of the 2019 Evanston High School graduation ceremony, held on Saturday, June 1, principal Merle Lester said he first wanted to thank the graduating seniors for all the fond memories, including what he said was probably his favorite — allowing those seniors to run around on the high school carpet in bare, paint-covered feet the previous day, knowing the carpet was going to be replaced during the school’s summer remodel.
In a touching show of solidarity with fellow classmate Pablo Escalante, who was seriously injured in an ATV accident the weekend prior and unable to attend commencement, all graduates, staff and school board members wore stickers featuring a photo of Escalante and the words “#PabloStrong” on their lapels.
Like most graduation ceremonies, this one was filled with laughter and a few tears, as well as pearls of wisdom shared by the morning’s speakers; student body president Josie Dennis and co-valedictorians Breila Fuller and Bradshaw Haack.
Dennis used the morals and lessons offered up in Disney films, including everything from “Cars” to “Avengers: End Game,” to reinforce her speech’s theme of embracing curiosity and opening doors as the graduates move forward with their lives. Lester said Dennis had done a lot of good work for the school during her time as student body president and it had been fun to see her grow and come out of her shell.
In her speech, Fuller said the class of 2019 defied definition and mentioned several students that stand out in her mind for various reasons. On a more serious note, she said she has many great memories but also recognizes the youth of today are living in a time of tragedy, including frequent school shootings, racism, discrimination and more.
Fuller urged her fellow graduates to befriend those they may disagree with and seek out those who can expose them to new ideas. She also sent her gratitude to students who have continued to thrive and grow in spite of the labels attached to them by others.
When recognizing Fuller, Lester said, “Every student leaves a wake behind them. Breila’s is a wake of goodness.”
The opener of Haack’s speech had the audience laughing aloud. “When Mr. Lester was looking for students to speak today, he first asked the smartest kid in our class and he said, ‘No.’ Then he asked the best athlete and he said ‘No’ too, so he asked the best-looking kid and he said, ‘No.’ But when he came to me the fourth time I just couldn’t turn him down again.”
Haack proceeded to thank the “everyday heroes” in the community, including students, families and teachers, who have inspired him regularly. He quoted Isaac Newton, who said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Haack said the Evanston community has been the giants and it is now on the graduates to go forward and be those giants for others.
In addition to being honored as co-valedictorian, Haack was also recognized as the Outstanding All-Around Male and Kori Deru as the Outstanding All-Around Female. Jenna Tethal and Weston Wiley received the Lois Michelstetter Citizenship Award, and Wiley and Brittany Barton were honored as the Best All-Around Athletes.
Students honored for academic achievement, graduating in the top 10 percent of the class, were Barton, Fuller, Haack and Wiley, as well as Sydney Bown, Hyrum Cooper, Lance Evans, Emma Feuz, Reid Gross, Rachael Hansen, Kaelyn Hiatt, Kennedy Johnston, Morgan Johnston, Clay Lester, Kayli Sharp, Harrison Tooley and Reghan Worley.