The Sears Center proved to be a subtle yet effective backdrop Saturday for Huntley High School as administrators and graduates congratulated the Class of 2012 and spoke of the real world environment they were about to enter.
“I think it’s better to have it here (at the Sears Centre),” said Senior Class President Brandon Bencko before the ceremony at the Hoffman Estates arena. “One, it’s more professional. Two, it’s allows us to have more people here to celebrate with us. Basically you can have your entire family here if you want which we couldn’t have at the high school.”
An estimated 3,000-plus people attended the ceremony that, until this year, had been held in the high school gymnasium where seating was limited. This year, each graduate was provided four free tickets with additional tickets available for $10 each. Because future Huntley High School classes are expected to double and triple in size, it may be some time before graduation ceremonies return to the Red Raider gymnasium.
With the graduates' names scrolling across the midlevel videoboards, the ceremony began with superintendent Dr. John Burkey welcoming the crowd and addressing the graduates whom he told that although college lie ahead, their professional lives were much closer that they could imagine.
Next, Principal David Johnson introduced Madeline Bartot, who delivered the salutatorian address and spoke about how she once felt she was “replaceable” and the turnaround that resulted from reading an article.
“It was then that I realized, no one is truly replaceable, “ said the Marquette-bound senior. “What makes you stand out, what you have to contribute, is you. Because no one out there has experienced all that you’ve experienced, and no one out there thinks the way that you think. We may be small now, but maybe, our ideas can be great.”
Kristen Allen followed with the valedictorian address, stating the senior class had reached success as defined by writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, a definition that includes earning the respect of intelligent people, the affection of children, and making a difference so “one life has breathed easier because you lived.”
“I think this definition fits perfectly for the success we’ve had in the past and will have in the future,” said Allen, who plans to major in history at the University of Illinois.
Mastersingers from the school choir, along with guitarist Zach Polentini, performed a medley of songs before Bencko and Senior Class Vice President Rachel Bushnell delivered the senior class acknowledgement and senior class gift – a $1,500 check to be used for the landscaping needs on school grounds.
During the ceremony, graduates who were enrolling in the military were asked to stand, prompting a standing ovation and round of applause from the crowd.