DELAVAN—Delavan-Darien High School's Class of 2017 stands out in many ways, and Principal Jim Karedes used numbers to back that up Thursday night.
Of the 191 graduates, 6 percent are graduating with a 4.0 grade-point average, he said. Thirteen percent are graduating with at least a 3.75 GPA, and 39 percent are graduating with at least a 3.0 GPA.
The class also received $706,000 in scholarships, he told the crowd gathered in the gym for the graduation ceremony.
The Class of 2017 is a talented group of students, one that will be remembered as being one big family, Karedes said.
Several student speakers demonstrated a couple of other distinguishing class traits: The students know how to work hard, and at least a few aren't afraid to take risks.
Valedictorian Ismael Coello Ramirez said he's not naturally smart, and he had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get where he is today.
Ramirez said he had a secret to share: He's a time traveler.
He said he has seen the future for each of his class members. They will all achieve success; they will all meet resistance; and they will all be discriminated against for their success.
Ramirez said his parents are immigrants, and sometimes he wouldn't see them until nightfall because they worked long hours to support his family.
That's what made him work so hard and eventually achieve the class's highest honor.
“I was not made to be up here, but look where we are,” he said.
Studying around the world
Valeska Schmid didn't have a typical high school experience.
Schmid came all the way from Germany to attend Delavan-Darien through its foreign exchange program.
She told the crowd that before coming to Delavan, she had never even heard of Wisconsin. The state soon became a second home and the lens through which she discovered the diversity of American culture.
“Do you know how much a smile or a 'hello' meant to me?” Schmid said, noting the school's willingness to accept her.
Her parting advice to the graduates: Go out and discover the wonderful diversity of the world.
“If you look at a person, any person, remember everyone has a story,” she said.
Coming full circle
Chet Kastning stood in the gymnasium showing off his yellow “proud parent” sticker.
He was there to see his daughter Corinne graduate.
He had been in her shoes in 1999 as a Delavan-Darien graduate.
“It's great to see it all come to fruition,” he said.
He recalled going to parent-teacher conferences and speaking with many of the same teachers who once taught him.
It's strange going to conferences and having teachers say, "Yeah, that's definitely your daughter,” he said.
His description of the graduation? “Mind-blowing.”
Ending on a humorous note
One of the class speakers, Jesus Garcia, decided to end his high school career with a few laughs.
He said some people have told him they couldn't believe they were leaving the school, how they didn't want to leave.
Garcia, however, compared high school to waiting at the state Division of Motor Vehicles: When you're there, you can't wait to leave.
He said he's been thinking about the future.
Where will everyone be in life at their 10-year high school reunion? “Who's going to be married? Who's going to be happily married?” Garcia said to the crowd, drawing laughter.
Garcia said he hopes to be a successful actor someday, and he encouraged students to chase their passions.
“The simple truth is the future is what you make of it,” Garcia said.