MORRIS – Tears were shed at the Morris Community High School Class of 2014 graduation even before the students started their processional onto the football field for their ceremony.
Students gathered around one another in the high school gymnasium waiting for their moment to take that final walk as seniors, when all of a sudden they began to part to allow a man to make his way through the crowd.
Airman First Class Josh Schmitt surprised his sister Ashlee Tapia to the clapping and cheers of her fellow seniors.
“I didn’t think he was going to come,” she said. “He said he wouldn’t get here until tomorrow.”
But Schmitt said there was no way he would miss his little sister’s graduation.
“I had to be here to see her graduate,” he said. “I will be stationed in Washington, and I won’t get to see her again for a little while.”
Tapia said it seemed like a long time since they last saw one another. Schmitt said it has been four months.
Time, where it has gone and the future was the topic of Morris Community High School Valedictorian Kelly Kolotka’s speech to her graduating class Friday night.
She said Friday morning, as she practiced for the graduation ceremony with her fellow students, that it is important to know that time is what you make of it.
“Time, it is the factor in our lives that places everything into perspective,” Kolotka said in her speech. “It sets events into motion and transforms moments into memories, memories that we, the Class of 2014, have shared together for the past 18 years of our life.”
Kolotka said Friday morning she was not just honored, but thrilled to find out she was named valedictorian.
“I walked into this school four years ago with one goal,” she said. “I’m thrilled I came this far and finished what I set out to do, become valedictorian.”
Salutatorian Trevor Lines said Morris Community High School was a great place to grow up.
“MCHS prepared me for anything in the future,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of great friends that I’ll cherish for life.”
Superintendent Pat Halloran said often a school year is judged by the quality of its senior class.
“This group has excelled in the classroom, in competition and has tremendous potential,” Halloran said.
Kolotka also talked about the future, the future of her class that included a couple of state champions, a perfect 36 on the ACT and friendships to last a lifetime.
“Our futures are limitless because of the work our loved ones have put into making us stronger, independent people,” she said.
The future plans of students in the Class of 2014 vary widely, from plans for a junior college, to a university, from the military to life in the workforce.
Angel Algaria said he’s excited to see what his future holds.
“This is a big milestone for me,” he said. “I plan to go to Joliet Junior College, before transferring to another school to major in chemical engineering.”
Alexandra Stack said she is planning a future in cosmetology, something she was able to participate in during her four years in high school, and she wants to stay in the Morris area.
Rebecca McNabb likes to help people, she hopes her future after Joliet Junior College will lead her to a job as a social worker.
“I like helping people,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot in high school, about friends as well as subjects.”