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Graduation marks new beginnings for Marengo grads

Published: Sunday, June 1, 2014 11:57 p.m. CDT
(Sarah Nader -
Marengo graduates walk to their seat Sunday before the beginning of Marengo High School’s commencement ceremony.
(Sarah Nader -
Marengo graduate Kasey Collins receives his diploma during Marengo High School’s commencement ceremony.
(Sarah Nader -
Marengo valedictorian Jonathan Beldin makes his address Sunday during Marengo High School's commencement ceremony.
(Sarah Nader -
Marengo graduate Jessica Stevens (right) lines up with her classmates Sunday before Marengo High School's commencement ceremony.

MARENGO – Twins Karina and Alondra Herrera of Marengo might be psychic.

Before their Marengo Community High School graduation ceremony Sunday, the 17-year-old sisters said they felt the enormity of the event.

“Today is the day you’re done with high school,” Karina Herrera said. “You’re not coming back any more. People won’t be telling you what to do; You’re on your own. It’s life-changing.”

“It’s exciting,” added Alondra Herrera.

Their thoughts prefaced the message provided by Angela Fink, who completed her first year as MCHS principal by telling her students the most important lessons in life wouldn’t be spelled out as clearly as they had been in the classroom.

“Throw away that road map we gave you and draw your own,” she said.

Many graduates already have taken that advice to heart.

The Herreras – who are the first in their family to graduate from high school – plan to attend McHenry County College, with Karina studying physical therapy and Alondra taking business administration classes.

Keegen Zickuhr, 18, of Marengo, plans to follow the road paved by both of his grandfathers by joining the Army National Guard.

And Nicholas Opie, 18, of Marengo, will be working at Marengo Auto Group and Cody’s Farm Fresh Vegetables this summer before heading to Iowa State University to study mechanical engineering. He represents the 44 percent of MCHS seniors who plan to attend a four-year college or university.

“I feel so happy,” said Opie, one of the top 10 students academically in his class. “I’ve been looking forward to [graduating]. I get to move on.”

While many of the day’s high school speakers noted the ceremony could be the last time all 171 seniors would be together, they also reflected on how close the Class of 2014 had become.

“We’re all different, but we have grown together,” said class secretary Kassandra Macias, who opened her speech by paying tribute to Demetri Sideris, a classmate who unexpectedly passed away of a sudden illness last fall.

Gestures such as Macias’ – and the number of times speakers thanked their teachers – are just some of the distinctive characteristics of this year’s seniors, said Julie Amendt, director of special education.

“There are a few stand-out kids who are so altruistic …” she said. “They do stuff so beyond what you would expect from a teenager. Out of this class, I’ve seen much of that type of care … it’s an observation of just who they are.”

Amendt said the Class of 2014 also stood out by welcoming the largest number of students in the school’s Individualized Education Program to walk and receive a certificate of completion.

And Malachi Allgood’s “selfie” may have been the first taken by a presenting speaker during an MCHS graduation ceremony, Amendt said, laughing. 

The senior ended his closing speech – and the ceremony – by taking a picture of himself with several rows of classmates standing and waving their arms as his backdrop.

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