MENDOTA – It was two months later than originally planned, but the Class of 2020 has graduated from Mendota High School. The 118 seniors – who were apart for 124 days – gathered together one last time and were presented their diplomas in an outdoor ceremony on July 18 at the MHS athletic field.
Graduations were put on hold or canceled all across the state when Governor JB Pritzker shut down the schools on March 17 because of the coronavirus pandemic. That forced the school district to implement another form of a school day – namely remote learning – in order to finish the academic year. That concluded on May 13, and after meeting criteria established by government and health officials, MHS was able to formally recognize the Class of 2020 with a commencement ceremony.
In speaking about the Class of 2020, Principal Denise Aughenbaugh said high school is an amazing, fun, and exciting place and time in our lives. She added, people often talk about teenagers running non-stop, “burning the candle at both ends,” participating in sports, activities, church groups, work, hanging out with friends, and studying.
“We often wonder if anyone can really do it all – even a teenager,” said Aughenbaugh. “As educators and parents, we talk to you about how to handle the overscheduling stress. We worry together about your emotional and physical overexertion that can wear you down. Well, this all changed for us on March 17, 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, for everyone’s health and safety, we completely closed Mendota High School.
“Spring activities and athletics were canceled. The senior week with fun dress-up days and lots of pictures in the cafeteria with a senior cookout was lost. The laughter and tears that follow your final senior locker clean-out were replaced with silence and masks. There is no doubt, you were denied senior moments that you deserve.
“Thank you for your patience and understanding and perseverance to get through the lonely days and nights. When Superintendent Prusator proudly presents the Class of 2020 and asks you to move your tassels, you will symbolically shift from teenager to young adult. Stay “Mendota Strong” and show the world what it means to overcome and persevere. We wish you the best in life. Thank you for the privilege of being a part of your world and education. We will miss you.”
Following an address by Student Council president Alli Stielow, scholarships and awards were presented to members of the class. Recipients were:
First State Bank Scholarship – Ashleigh Collins, Jonathan Schmidt; American Legion Award – Anna Bokus, Noah DeLong; Aaron Olsen Scholarship – Gavin Glazebrook; Ben Bokus Memorial Scholarship – Cole Stremlau; Morris Morgan Scholarship – Harvey Vela; James Dankenbring Scholarship – Bokus, DeLong, Stremlau; Jason Kent Johnson Memorial Award – Bokus, Bianca Espinoza; Oden Jordal/Kiwanis Club Scholarship – Jonathan Schmidt; Clara Cypreansen & Alfred O. Jacob Scholarship – DeLong; State Seal of Biliteracy Award – Uriel Arellano, Oswaldo Arteaga, Victoria Arteaga, Sonia Duarte, Gabriel Guzman, Kevin Lewis, Esmeralda Perez, Karen Perez, Christopher Sandoval, Jonathan Schmidt, Vela; High Honor Academic Graduates – Hannah Ambler, Bokus, DeLong, Sean Dullard, Shayna Kerchner, Lewis, Stremlau, Joshua Wiley, Maren Wise.
Next, Ambler addressed her classmates as a High Honor speaker. Superintendent Jeff Prusator spoke to the graduates and then presented the Class of 2020. As Aughenbaugh read their names, the graduates walked up the ramp to receive their diplomas from board president Jim Lauer.
Bokus, senior class president, concluded the ceremony with a speech to her classmates, who then were official graduates, having fulfilled their obligation as high school students.
Students receiving their diplomas were:
Hannah Ambler, Blaze Anderson, Uriel Arellano, Dailin Arteaga, Emiliano Arteaga, Oswaldo Arteaga, Victoria Arteaga, Quentin Bailey, Angelique-Ashli Baker, Tuli Bakr, Kassidy Barkman, Keirsten Bentley, Anna Bokus, Emme Bottom, Aaron Brandner, Rachel Brandner, Mikayla Bryson, Jose Bustos, Savannah Christen, Kalie Cocoanour;
Ashleigh Collins, Adrianna Coronel, Lauren Dalton, Noah DeLong; Justin Donovan, Sonia Duarte, Sean Dullard, Emily Elwell, Christopher Escatel, Mauricio Escatel, Yairet Esparza, Bianca Espinoza, Ivan Figueroa, Jaide Finley, Colleen Fitzgerald, Kaitlen Frey, Alyssa Garcia, Logan Garcia, Gavin Glazebrook, Angelica Godina;
Juan Godina, Andres Guerra, Abraham Guzman, Gabriel Guzman, Benjamin Haas, Kevin Haas, Damien Hampton, Michael Heiting, Jae’Shaun Hughes, Cortnee Jones, Taylor Joyce, Jacquelyn Keeton, Jade Kerchner, Shayna Kerchner, Dria Kuntz, Kevin Lewis, Yuliana Maldonado, Antonio Mandujano, Jorge Mandujano, Kasandra Mandujano;
Parker Manning, Hanna Mastny, Zanae Mayfield, Catalina Medina, Timothy Miller, Alivia Milus, Peyton Milus, Andrea Molina, Tyler Moore, Bryden Myers, Brayden Northcutt, Esmeralda Perez, Karen Perez, Alexis Quintana, Sujely Quintana, Lucas Ramey, Abbey Rodriguez, Noah Rodriguez, Alondra Romero, Luke Ross;
Ashley Ruacho, Timothy Rummery, Gustavo Salinas, Joshua Sanchez, Christopher Sandoval, Jose Sandoval, Angela Saunders, Laney Saylor, Colton Scheppers, Alison Schlesinger, Aaron Schmidt, Jonathan Schmidt, Noah Schulz, Jackson Sondgeroth, Brooklyn Sparks, Macy Stevenson, Aiden Stewart, Cora Stewart, Alli Stielow, Cole Stremlau;
Samantha Sweger, Megan Thibodeau, Jayger Thorne, Sydnee Tillman, Anthony Tolentino, Dylan Tucker, Daisy Valdez, Jessica Valdez, Christina Van Sickle, Joanna Vasquez, Harvey Vela, Carolina Velasco, Devin Wade, Brayden Watkins, Haleigh Wendel, Joshua Wiley, Maren Wise, Coltyn Wright.