SOUTH BELOIT - It was a sea of red robes, roses and balloons as the South Beloit High School Class of 2019 graduated Saturday morning.
The festive occasion included the South Beloit High School Band performing "Dead Man's Chest" from "Pirates of the Caribbean;" the Concert Choir singing "Homeward Bound" and, of course, a rousing rendition of the South Beloit High School Song. In his welcome graduate Zachary Weinberg said students have all struggled in different ways to get to the stage. He thanked those who supported them through their trials and tribulations.
Salutatorian Rachel Strasser noted most of the students had been in the district since kindergarten or preschool. As seniors, she joked how some students still seek naptime and the next snack. She shared some comical events over the years and heartwarming times.
"Through it all we never lost our drive to have fun and live life to the fullest," she said.
Strasser said students had to step it up when planning for college this year and finished out the year in a strong way. Students balanced sports, socializing, studying and more.
She advised her classmates that nothing ever goes as planned when weathering their future. Although graduates may move on to better things, she said the bond between students and families will always be there.
Board Vice President David Brockman of the Class of 1982 gave the graduation address.
"Brace yourselves for the many challenges ahead and learn from them," Brockman said.
Brockman said he learned the most from obstacles. From financial trouble he learned that every day and every dollar counts.
He said job titles lead to neither happiness nor respect, but it's pride of service which earns the joy of labor. A health crisis taught him life is too short and time should be spent on what matters.
"Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life," Brockman said. "Don't give up, and don't be afraid to try new things."
Valedictorian Duane Groves said he was categorized as a smart kid, but sometimes got a detention.
He told his fellow students to stay humble when there is so much to boast about. While the educational system as a whole has installed a fear of failure, he said it will happen to everyone at some point. He said failure is a stepping stone to success and becoming a stronger, wiser version of oneself.
"Fail hard, fail often and never let the fear of failure discourage you," he said.
Groves also encouraged his fellow graduates to consider returning to the area after graduation where they can share their many special experiences together.
During the ceremony an honorary diploma for the late Rodrigo Ruiz was awarded and accepted on behalf of his family. Fellow classmates Miguel Guardado and Bryan Martinez spoke about how Ruiz was an inspiration to other students, lighting up the room with his smile and encouraging students.
Guardado also gave the farewell where he urged students to share their laughter and not to be afraid to ask others for help.