MOLINE — Four long years have come to an end, and the United Township High School Class of 2017 is looking to the future with kindness, generosity and dreams big enough to fill the galaxy.
Co-valedictorian Thomas McGehee said he grew up being told to reach for the stars.
"It didn't matter where I ended up, as long as I was wandering the Milky Way, trying to catch stardust in my hands," he said.
As they move on to their lives beyond high school, Mr. McGehee encouraged his classmates to reach to the farthest tips of the galaxy.
"I'm tired of being a black hole in the classroom — absorbing everything by not letting my light be seen," he said. "No, those times are over. I belong among the stars, and so do you."
"Today, when I look into all of your eyes, all I see are constellations," Mr. McGehee said. "All you need to do is take the time to connect the dots. Then can you plot the true points of your ability."
The sky is not the limit for the UT Class of 2017, according to Mr. McGehee. It is only the point where their journey will begin.
Beyond the facts and figures she learned, student council president Jennifer Osborne said she will take the lesson of the importance of generosity and kindness with her from UT, and she asked her classmates to take these traits on their own journeys past high school as well.
"As we all venture off into the so-called 'real world' after this ceremony, I encourage you all to think about how you can show generosity in your life," Ms. Osborne said.
The struggles that must be faced in the star-speckled future are nothing to be afraid of, according to co-valedictorian Peri Oppenheimer.
"We can overcome any struggles that we put our minds to, as long as we remember that we are not alone in our struggles," she said.
She compared high school, and life beyond it, to a roller coaster full of ups and downs, and looks forward to the hills she still has to climb.
"No one wants to ride a straight roller coaster," Ms. Oppenheimer said. "The hills are usually the best parts."
Class of 2017 graduate Izaya Sims agreed that high school has been a series of ups and downs. One of the highlights for him was playing basketball, and classmate Brittni LaFoutaine shared his fond memories of UT athletics.
"I'll look back on all my sports and all the great memories I've made with all my teammates and all the accomplishments we've had," Ms. LaFountaine said.
"It takes a lot of hard work to accomplish what you want, and it's worth it," she said.
Tessa Ackerland, Class of 2017, is excited to be moving on to "bigger and better things," but is grateful for her experience at UT.
"High School has been more of a learning experience for me than anything else, and if you're going to take away anything, be yourself," Ms. Ackerland said.
After walking across the stage, the Class of 2017 sat, listening to final words of encouragement from their principal, Carl Johnson, before the ceremony officially finished and the future became the present.
"You've worked very hard for the last four years to get where you are right now, so I also want to offer some brief words of encouragement," Mr. Johnson said. "This is but the beginning of your journey. In all that you do, no matter where you go, do not forget the foundation that your parents, this community and this school has given you."
He said he always expects the students to try their best, but challenged them to "rise above just trying your best" in their future endeavors.
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"I know you will find a way to succeed," Mr. Johnson said. "I know you will find a way to make your own way in life and ultimately find a way to make our community a better place."
The 2017 UTHS graduates are:
Mubarak Abdelkarim, Fadumo Abdi, Cameron Ackerland, Tessa Ackerland, Shiriyah Albright, Ian Allmendinger, Alexis Almanza, Givon Alonzo, Ali Alvarado, Mohamed Amadou, Samantha Anderson, Hannah Anding, Jose Arroyo, Kristin Arvanis, Karina Atherton and Esseh Ayikpe.
Esther Badjinemoyo, Damerjian Baldwin, Cajzon Barajas, Joanna Barajas, Bretton Barr, Tristan Bautista, Tyler Beechamp, Belul Bekteshi, Ness Ben Nun, Jalisa Berry, Sonu Bhandari, Summer Bradley, Caleb Brands, Joshua Breneman, Samuel Brennan, Courtney Brown, Jenna Brown, Pierce Brown, Austin Bruce, Madison Bruno, Dylan Brunt, Davianna Buchanan, Traveon Buchanan, Kelsey Bumann and Samantha Bunting.
Natalia Cabrales, Daniel Calderon, Omar Camacho, Sandra Camarillo, Autumn Campbell, Riley Carizey, Carlos Carlos, Aleecia Carlson-Padilla, Arianna Carlson-Padilla, Scott Carothers, Demariye Carpenter, Alex Carr, Jacob Carroll, Cassidy Carter, Guillermo Castillon, Ariel Castro, Emily Castro, Adolfo Caudillo, Martin Cerda and Dereck Chase.
Justin Clark, Lenae Clayton, Estevan Clemente, Matais Clower, Adrian Cole, Alexus Coleman, Lynsey Collins, Anthony Contreras, Cheyanne Cortez, Dejah Crawford, Michelle Crosby, Madison Crowell, Dustin Crum, Emma Cruz, Mariela Cruz, Lian Cung and Corey Cutkomp.
Kossi Dakey, Nathan Damitz, Kaitlyn Danley, Miguela David, Alyssa Davis, Arian Davis, Courtney Davis, Kayne DeBrobander, Brenton DeBusschere, Cody Desseyn, Mohamed Diallo, Julio Diaz, Leticia Diaz, Paula Diaz, Mariah Ditto, Devin Dobbels, Antonio Dominguez, Gema Dominguez, Sarah Dooley, Miracle Douglas, Alexander Duke, Stephen Dungan, Bobby Dunham, Greyson Durbin and Christopher Dyche.
Alexis Ege, Trey Ellis, Austin Engesser, Adrienne Evans, Victor Fernandez Dominguez, Agustin Fernandez Zamora, Trevor Feurt, Gordon Finley, Sarah Fisher, Gene Ford, Jha’Deja Ford, Connor Forret, Scott Frederick and Mickenzie Fuller.
Daniel Gabriel Jr., Sean Galbraith, Liliana Gallegos, Margaret Gant-Schneekloth, Jasmine Garcia, Julia Garcia, Maria Garcia, Stephanie Garcia, Trista Garwood, Alexia Garza, Ibeeth Garza, Zachary Gaskins, Aridania Gerardo, Adriana Gilbert, Seth Glenn, Clairissa Godwin, Andrea Gomez, Isaiah Gonzalez, Rai Gonzalez, Kayla Goodenough, Kylie Gordon and Cassandra Gray.
Troy Hahn, Gage Halen, Koleton Hamrick, James Haney, Kristen Harker, Emma Hart, Lindsey Hart, Mary Hart, Jonathan Hartman, Tannar Haskins, Diego Hernandez, Seth Hernandez, Vianka Herrera, Evan Hillyer, Kaitlyn Hintze, Noah Hoepfner, Dallas Hofer, Kennedy Hoke, Cody Horton, Trentin Horton, Matthew Houseman, Jonathon Houston, Kenesha Howard, Alec Huff and Jasmine Huset.
Abigail Jansen, Fernando Jaramillo, Hannah K. Johnson, Hannah N. Johnson, Hope Johnson, Ian Johnson, James Johnson, Kenzi Johnson, Kimberly Johnson, Natinique Johnson, Benjamin Jones, Emily Jones, Harleigh Jones and Erik Just.
Daniel Kadlec, Jack Kelly, Daniel Kelty, Ethan Kenning, Jacqueline Kerner, Bailey Kizer, Karah Kost, Deven Kyser, Brittni LaFountaine, Emma Lang, Lauren Larson, Alexxis Lear, Jayson Ledford, Travis Leedom, Sui Len, Andrea Lewis, Chandra Linn, Amanda Linville, Raven Little, Tres Lochner, Francisco Lopez, Jacob Lopez and Johanna Lopez.
Blake Mack, Samantha MacLennan, Mackenzie Malmstrom, Jordan Manrrique, Emily Manso, Kaitlyn Markin, Kimberly Marquez, Justice Marshall, Alexander Martel, Serena Martin, Tristan Martin, Andrez Martinez, Erika Martinez, Samantha Martinez, Tatiyana Martinez, Virginia Martinez, Christian Massarolo, Hollie Maynard, Andrea Mayren, Autumn McClendon and Scott McCracken.
Tyler McCracken, Thomas McGehee, Shayne McGinty, Jacob Mecham, Carlos Medina, Payton Miller, Samantha Miner, Brandon Minney, Javien Minniefield, Lillianna Molina, Jaime Mondragon, Alexa Moneymaker, Jeremy Monsoor, Christopher Morales, Taylor Morehouse, Mya Morgan, Sean Morris, Ema Morse, Derek Mottet, Allura Mourning, Taylor Murphy, Nevers Mushimata and David Myers.
Jordan Neal, Tyleic Neely, Colton Nelson, Madeline Neumann, Paige Neumann, David Nevarez, David Newberry, Jared Nichols, Melissa Nieves, Emmanuel Ochoa, Corey Ochs, Alejandra Olvera-Garcez, Peri Oppenheimer, Anthony Orduna, Enrique Ortiz, Jennifer Osborne and Kelly Osburn.
Matthew Passini, Gabrielle Pauwels, Bradley Pearson, Taylor Pearson, Benjamin Pement, Makyla Penderson, Andres Perez, Rey Perez, Vanessa Perez, Octavia Perkins, Alexis Perren, Rebecca Phillips, Brittany Pickartz, Tristan Price, Paige Pustelnik and Deoveon Quick.
Logan Randall, Emily Ranney, Anton Ranson, Aaron Reeves, Richard Rice, Nae Neka , Richardson, Natasha Ricketts, Valeria Rico, Miguel Rico-Diaz, Blake Ringier, Royce Rivera, Deonte Roby, Tahj Rogers, Giovanni Romero, Grace Ronnebeck, Katelyn Rosenthal, Alena Rossmiller and Blake Runkle.
Elisha Sackett, Leah Samuelson Burkeybile, Katelyn Sanderson, Jessica Sandholm, Alyssa Sandoval, Austin Santilli, Austin Schatti, Nathan Scherschel, Jacob Schmall, Alex Schnepple, Carlie Schofield, Kevin Schofield, Jack Scholfield, Christian Schuck, Keegan Schuldt, Ariel Scott, Devin Shields, Hannah Shoppa, Edward Sierra-Lee, Jesus Silva, Izaya Sims and Arun Singh.
Semaj Singleton, Sarah Sletten, Aliyah Smilgis, Jean-Luc Soglohun, Abigail Solomon, Soutchay Sophanavong, Dalton Stahl, Karlee Stapf, Samantha Stevens, Tytanisha Stewart Thomas, Thais Stone, Javier Suarez, Alexa Swanson, Jacob Swanson and Sawyer Swearingen.
Madelene Tague, Pittawat Tawalee, Rodney Teel, Nicholas Thomas, Jordan Thorson, Grace Timler, Lana Tran, Fabiola Trujillo, Norman Trujillo, Travis Tubbs, Joshua Tuttle, Husna Uwimana, Jacob Varble, Sonya Velasquez, Seth Vergeyle, Alex Verschoore, Alexis Victorino, Alejandro Villalpando, Cesar Villalpando, Xavier Villarreal, Malique Villegas and Trevor Viren.
Nicholas Wadsager, Abigail Wadsworth, De’Ante Walker, Alexander Warden, Leanna Wardrip, Cassidy Way, Kristina Webb, Ronald Webb, Kathryn Weber, Logan Webster, Collin West, Mackenzie Whitlock, Kylie Whitmarsh, Alexander Williams, Jaria Williams, Zauriana Williams, Daniel Wilson, Emily Witherspoon, Taylor Workheiser, Kiara Wren, Logan Wren, Katie Wright, Tanaius Young and Miranda Zinke.