Just before Woodstock North High School’s class of 2017 walked across the stage to accept their diplomas, Edwin Mercado marvelled that his stepdaughter was already graduating.
“It’s so fast,” Mercado said. “I’m very emotional.”
Mercado and his wife, Jennifer Garcia, moved from Puerto Rico to Woodstock about four years ago, just as their daughter, Amanda Eaton Garcia, was starting high school. It was a big adjustment for the family, Garcia said, but their daughter grew to love WNHS.
“It was hard,” Jennifer Garcia said, but she believes her daughter received a better education than she would have without the move. “In Puerto Rico, it was tough. Not like here.”
Their daughter was one of 228 seniors to graduate May 20 — a remarkable number, Principal Darlea Livengood said, because that means, for the first time in the school’s history, every senior who started school in August received a diploma at the end of the year.
J.B. and Jan Livengood were on hand to watch their granddaughter, Bria Livengood, graduate. She’s the oldest of their six grandchildren, so watching her accept her diploma was a new experience for the couple from Lake in the Hills.
“I’m happy, but I’ll probably cry,” Jan Livengood said. “I’m sure I’ll get very emotional. We are very proud, but I’ll cry.”
The ceremony was filled with emotion, some from parents and family members, but also from staff members and students who mourned the late Assistant Principal Steve Rick. Rick died of cancer Feb. 4 at age 39.
“He loved this class and the students at North, and he would have done anything to be with you today,” Darlea Livengood told the graduates. She read a passage from Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” Seuss was one of Rick’s favorites, she said.
Valedictorian William Taylor and salutatorian Alec Molve´ also gave addresses, as did students Ariella Simandl and Landis and Paige Delgado.
Taylor urged his fellow graduates to “be kind” as they embark on their futures.
“A simple act of kindness can go a long way,” Taylor said.
Student Matthew Zinnen was selected by his peers to give the school’s annual “Thunder Way” speech.
“Most of us are overachievers, but that’s OK,” he said.
The class of 2017 earned a school-record $1.9 million in scholarships, Darlea Livengood said.