By Marianne Mueller


SOUTH BELOIT – Photos of little ones formed into pictures of modern day graduates. Fifty-eight students wearing red and white caps and gowns proceeded into the auditorium of South Beloit High School on Saturday, May 14 in honor of South Beloit High School’s commencement.

The National Anthem rang out played by the high school band.

Principal Crizek expressed deepest gratitude of support given by parents, faculty and staff.  The faculty and staff of South Beloit High School received a round of applause.

Cierra Southworth welcomed fellow students, families, and guests.

“I look back on all of the fun memories we have made,” she said. “This important chapter of our lives is closing; some will continue with their schooling, others will go a different route. I would like to thank the faculty.

“Each and every teacher made sure that we had the ability in and out of the classroom to achieve. Southworth gave special mention of Mrs. Ott for everything she had done for students, friends, and family.

“To the parents; you were there with us and have supported us through our highs and lows,” lauded Southworth. “For every congratulations we are receiving, we will always remember the experiences that made us who we are today.”

Salutatorian Mark Hanaman reflected back on the past four years.

“In freshman year, we were trying to figure out what school is going to be like. We did not have a wide variation of classes. In our sophomore year we pushed out of our comfort zone and had to think about what to do in our future.

“As juniors we were challenged both academically and in athletics. Senior year we found ourselves resourcing while preparing to take our first breath of air in the real world. Some will continue academically, some will enter the work force right away, and others will join the Military.

“Make sure you always get things done but do not forget to have some fun. It helps you to refocus,” Hanaman advised. He quoted a philosopher who once encouraged, “You should follow your passions, do what you want to do and put in 100 percent effort.”

The band impressed in the playing of the song, “Rites of Tamburo.”

Mr. Richard Rowlett who is a 2003 South Beloit High graduate; 2002 football champion, served as the commencement speaker.

“Thirteen years ago I was nervous about tripping as I walked across the stage to receive my diploma. I would like to share one of my favorite quotes from Ben-Hur, “He gave me water to cultivate your garden, meaning you have to figure out your own path.

“I went to college to play baseball and suffered a career ending injury to my elbow,” shared Rowlett. “As an athlete I decided to attend professional umpire school and was a top 30 graduate. I was not offered a job.

“After that did not work out, I worked a job at a grocery store in Roscoe; where I met my wife and we started a family. I got an autoimmune disease; he gave me water. I felt I had to do something more.

“A job opportunity opened up at Field Fastener. I got that job because of who I am, not because I had a degree. Due to the work culture we have built a house for Habitat for Humanity. This has helped to define my personal meaning of he gave me water.

“Smile more; make sure you flash a smile at everyone you meet and be kind to every person you meet.”

The concert choir performed “I am the River.”

“Your generation has so many more opportunities than mine did, and more challenges,” said Superintendent Fisher. “Just like the person who this auditorium is named for, Mike Duffy I have been inspired to never give the honor up of my job position. I love it somedays; other days are hard. Don’t take it for granted.

Fisher awarded students with Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, and Summa Cum Laude Honors for holding the highest grade point averages.

Mr. Ballard, Athletic Department head, awarded Benjamin Strasser with a Major Athletic Award. Strasser earned 10 Varsity letters in various sports.

Valedictorian, Kayla Niedermeier addressed the class.

“Four years ago we were scared freshmen, now we are here today; most of us are still scared. Our teachers went from tying our shoelaces to teaching us life lessons. Our parents have raised us to know right from wrong.

“We have made friends, some we will have forever and others will go separate ways. Between our coaches, friends and family we have a great support system. “Never forget where you came from and where you are going.”

Diplomas were awarded followed by the playing of the South Beloit school song.

Benjamin Strasser bid a fond farewell. “We have all heard the cliché, time has flown by. Most of us remember overcoming the first day of school and the challenges. We all had our fair share.

“You should never overlook the bad moments; we need to compare those when times are good. In high school we have had a safety net; now are exposing ourselves to the great unknown.

“You need to step out of your comfort zone. The definition of graduation is finally completing a long groomed task. We have worked hard.

“Although we will be going on our own separate paths no matter how stubborn we are we must remember that guidance is always helpful.

Principal Czicek gave parting words of advice. “What is graduation? You have put in 13 years of hard work and effort. It is about finishing what you started.

“Each of you will do something more. This is where you move on with our life. It is not just about completing this milestone. Good luck chasing your dreams.”

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