Hononegah graduates receive messages of promising futures


Maddy Dobnick, Keira Shannon and Ashley Edwards came together outside after commencement ceremonies.

Hononegah Community High School's class of 2022 excelled in living their class motto in the past four years: "The best way to predict the future is to create it."

HCHS's band set a celebratory mood for commencement ceremonies held on Saturday, May 28 at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

As "Pomp and Circumstance" played, close to 500 seniors entered, led in by faculty, school board members and staff. Loud applause filled the room.

Everyone stood as the HCHS choir sang the National Anthem under the direction of Carolyn Frieden. A nice touch was added as Sarah Peterson of the American Sign Language Club accompanied the anthem.

HCHS principal Chad Dougherty introduced class president Shreya Vattem. “From the help of teachers, gratitude of your family, or support from your friends, remember to thank you first. We have been through a lot, but even going through the worst, we got through that.”

Vattem talked about being a wide-eyed 14-year-old freshman in a new school. “In our sophomore year, COVID-19 hit, and we missed out on dances and football games. In our junior year, we had to do things the strangest way- being six feet apart from each other; that was not ideal but we were still able to make memories. Not a lot of people can say that they got to ride a Ferris wheel at prom.”

“We appreciated our senior year because of it. We once again participated in prom, dances and graduation. We have had to learn tips and tricks of happiness. As we reminisce on the good, concentrate on all of the good your future will hold.

Vattem concluded with an inspirational quote from Nicki Minaj. “Don't be lazy, don't complain about hard work because hard work pays off.”

Principal Dougherty asked for a moment of silence in memory of classmate Thomas Figueroa who passed away on July 23 of last year. “He was a wonderful person and athlete. His friends, family and school miss him,” Dougherty said. 

Dougherty read the names, which also appeared on a screen, of all who will be serving our country in different branches of the military.

"I look forward to seeing your picture on our veterans wall," Dougherty said.

All veterans in attendance were asked to stand to be recognized.

Tap, swipe, or click on the photo at the bottom of this article to view a image gallery of the graduates.

Dougherty named the top 25 students of the class and the different universities students will be going to.

"We have been rolling in the wave of the pandemic," Dougherty said. “We had the hybrid purple and gold schedule. It took grit and determination to succeed.”

Hononegah has 108 Summa Cum Laude, 41 Magna Cum Laude, and 28 Cum Laude graduates. “These are impressive statistics," said Dougherty, "and why HCHS is ranked so high in the state of Illinois. We are ranked 76th as 'Best High School' by US News and World Report, and the highest in the Rockford metropolitan region."

"Class of 2022, you are part of a legacy that got lost in the labyrinth that is Hononegah and found your way and made a positive impact; you have made Hononegah an amazing place. What makes Hononegah an amazing place is the people and the support they give," Dougherty said.

Dougherty asked early graduates to stand to be recognized. "To graduate early, a GPA of 4.58 is required. These students averaged 4.73 with an SAT score of 1391."

Math teacher Mr. Alex Hartz outlined reasons that Ryan Yang earned the honor of salutatorian. Hartz spoke of Ryan's love of learning and the ways he excels in class. "He is planning to take chemistry at Champaign Urbana."

Yang reflected. “To the Class of 2022: we have experienced joy and every triumph, despair and even uncertainty when our school doors closed that March two years ago. We aspired to learn and to push our own limits. We can contribute our own voice to a group or a cause. We learned empathy and have learned from our mistakes to become a better person. We have learned to be resilient and have excelled both in the classroom and on the field. We've even broken some of our own records this year. We have proven ourselves, we are ready. Whether going into the workforce, college or going into the Army, as you continue on that path, some parts might be rough. Hononegah Indians, may your next chapter begin.”

Mr. Zachwiega introduced valedictorian Grant Gouwens. He described Gouwens as creative, curious and someone who knows when to lead and when to facilitate. “You can always count on Grant,” Zachwiega said. “He was instrumental in GAIA and has been co-President of GAIA as a senior. The Monday after prom, Grant made sure that an Arbor Day certification was completed. He is also an Eagle Scout. His thoughtfulness will serve him well as a psychology and philosophy major.

“I am so proud of all of the students here today and hope that you find success in all that you do," said Zachwiega.

Gouwens spoke about the Class of 2022's resilience. He spoke of a modern extended philosophy that he learned. “Life could be smooth or an easy process if it were not for getting last place on instrumental dodge ball."

"On a more serious note," said Gouwens, "we have all faced serious challenges. We have had strife and have faced road blocks. There are two options. The first is that there is a perception that in life the bad stands out . Option two is to embrace the good in our lives. I acknowledge that life carries on after we leave high school. These next steps are just as deep as the last. We now have the added luxury of choosing what we want to do. I challenge you, make sure that whatever you find, it is important enough to carry on. If you ever feel you are in an uphill battle, it is because you are. Keep in mind the hard things are worth doing."

Board of Education President Dave Kurlinkus asked for a moment of silence for the school shooting victims in Uvalde.

Kurlinkus shared a powerful message. “Last fall, our world would return to normal. We set an example for our students and did what needed to be done. Everything you faced prepared you to face anything. I would like to invite you to the 100th anniversary of the school building this fall.

"All of the people who have helped you to give you knowledge should be recognized. We should never assume that we know what tomorrow will bring. It is crucial that we listen to each other, even someone you disagree with. We have become a lot less attentive to what others are saying. Be compassionate toward others and let the truth guide you. The way that you react is the person that you are."

“I have four sons that graduated from Hononegah and from the University of Illinois,” said Kurlinkus. He advised everyone to take a trip to the University of Illinois to see the Alma Mater statue whose arms are stretched out in a welcome.

“Thank you for the past four years. We love you; you probably don't hear that often enough. You are exceptional.”

Superintendent Mike Dugan certified the Class of 2022. “You are the 103rd graduating class; go forth and do great things.”

Board members handed out diplomas as Mrs. Susan Bohn and Mrs. Jean Chambers read the roll call of each graduate's name.

Senior class president Davis Cass said, “On behalf of our senior class, thank you to the faculty and staff of Hononegah High School for your leadership and guidance.”

“Seniors, we have been flexible, adaptable and persistent. ”

Cass invited graduates to move their tassels from the right to the left. “I present to you the Class of 2022.”

Purple and gold balloons dropped down toward graduates who had fun batting them. Principal Dougherty dismissed the class.

The band played the school song, followed by a recessional to “Trumpet Voluntary” by Jeremiah Clarke.

Congratulations to the Class of 2022 who all have promising futures!

Tap, swipe, or click on the photo below to view a image gallery of the graduates.

A group of friends celebrated Hononegah's 2022 graduation at the Harris Bank Center on Saturday, May 28.
Class President Davis Cass (center) was surrounded by his family: his mother Arra Van Galder (a Hononegah fine arts teacher), his father Ladel Cass and his sister Ellery.
Jonathan McGuire, Jennifer Konieczski, Felicia Binning, Isabella Fraley, and Madi Jacobs joined in a fun graduation day.
Maddy Dobnick, Keira Shannon and Ashley Edwards
Jarrett Van Briessen celebrated graduation with his parents by his side: Kevin and Andrea Van Briessen.
Graduates Grace and Jacob Silvestri were shown great support by their family. Also pictured: Leon Dahlberg, their father Franco Silvestri and JoAnn Beaver.
Ethan Benjamin, Dylan Sayles, Westen Simpson, James Hernandez and Drake Emanuel met up after graduation.
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