D204 Graduation, Not Just for Grads

“Our journey is just beginning, but we can succeed despite roadblocks or detours. Armed with our education we even have the power to demolish them altogether, not just for ourselves but for others as well,” said Amery Stephenson, student commencement speaker at Neuqua Valley High School.

Indian Prairie School District 204 handed out diplomas to more than 2,2000 high school graduates at the campus of Northern Illinois University on Sunday during three consecutive commencement ceremonies.

The occasions were perhaps equally as special for several of its administrators, including Waubonsie Valley’s new principal.

It was Jason Stipp’s first time giving a speech at the school’s commencement ceremony, and he left the graduates with advice for becoming not just great leaders for the future, but great followers.

“Look for those whom you can trust and as you find those people in pursuit of your goals and dreams, follow them. Follow them by drinking up all the knowledge they offer. Follow them by appreciating all that they have to offer. Follow them by becoming a better leader. Follow them by becoming a better person.”

For others, this year’s graduation marked their last, including Metea Valley Principal Jim Schmidd, who’s retiring after having opened the school five years ago. Students honored him by performing one of his favorite songs from the musical “Wicked,” a song that Schmidd himself requested be played at the schools dedication in 2009.

“In the following years it’s hard for us to imagine Metea life without the amazing contributions of Mr. Schmidd. As the song says, because I knew you, I have been changed for the better.”

Schmidd left his students with this advice:

“Please say thank you to all who’ve helped you alongside this journey. Sometimes you forget that your parents, your teachers, your coaches, mentors, and many others, know how much you mean to you. And finally, live your life with integrity. That name on your diploma is the greatest gift that you have.”

The district’s commencement ceremonies culminated with Neuqua Valley, where retiring superintendent Dr. Kathy Birkett helped open the school in 1997.

“Dr. Birkett is a skilled and passionate leader and she knows as much as I do that the leader often gets the credit and sometimes the blame but the leader is nothing without her followers.

Principal Robert McBride gave Dr. Birkett who’s spent the first diploma of the night, with a special gift left inside.

“Inside this diploma is a check for $500 that these graduates contributed at our graduation practice on Thursday for the Kathryn J. Birkett Scholarship fund. Congratulations, Dr. Birkett. We’re gonna miss you.”

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