close
close

‘This class did an outstanding job:’ Maine East students graduate – Chicago Tribune

The predominant school color, the bright blue of the Blue Demons, was evident when the 480 graduates of Maine East High School in Park Ridge wore their graduation regalia at the Rosemont Theater on May 19.

Graduation in 2024, and in person, was different than 2020, when these students began their high school careers. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a shift toward online and socially distanced experiences. Maine East’s Class of 2024 seniors spent their first year learning remotely.

“Starting high school in such a unique and challenging environment really means that you have to acclimate to the high school environment much more quickly,” Maine East Principal Melissa Pikul told the Pioneer Press.

“So, this class of 2024 spent their entire ninth grade year behind a screen, so the social connections that they normally form, the activities that they normally participate in, the relationships that they build with teachers, all of that was completely different,” Pikul said.

“So having to accelerate that in 10th grade is really remarkable and this class did an outstanding job.”

Imeelda Zaya was the student graduation speaker.

“One thing I can be sure of is that we are all eternally grateful for the people we have surrounded ourselves with,” Zaya said.

“Let us embrace the unknown with courage and curiosity.”

Ken Wallace, superintendent of Maine Township High School District 207, will retire June 30 and said the COVID-19 pandemic has symbolism for many, including for Wallace’s career as superintendent.

Imeelda Zaya, student graduation speaker, at Maine East High School's graduation in Rosemont on May 19, 2024 at the Rosemont Theater (5400 N. River Road).  (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)
Student graduation speaker Imeelda Zaya at the Maine East High School graduation in Rosemont on May 19, 2024 at the Rosemont Theatre. (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)

Wallace told the Pioneer Press: “My first year was the collapse of the world economy, so I’ve seen a few things.

“I would say that the pandemic for everyone was incredibly difficult and life-changing in many ways.

A delayed cap toss on stage at the Maine East High School graduation in Rosemont on May 19, 2024 at the Rosemont Theater (5400 N. River Road).  (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)
A delayed cap toss on stage at the Maine East High School graduation in Rosemont on May 19, 2024 at the Rosemont Theatre. (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)

“But what we’ve seen from our students is incredible resilience, same from our staff, incredible resilience, so I guess it’s a good arc at the end,” Wallace said of the pending retirement.

“For me,” Wallace said, “it’s that, it’s getting kids back to school, it’s getting all the construction projects done and done so I can walk away knowing that we passed a referendum overwhelmingly, that our community really supported that. , we built our schools to reflect how we do school today and for many reasons to me, that’s good news and it feels really good.

Backstage, from left, David Schultz, science teacher, shakes graduate Adam Gasior's hand before Gasior receives a diploma at Maine East High School's graduation in Rosemont on May 19, 2024 at the Rosemont Theatre.  (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)
Backstage, from left, David Schultz, science teacher, shakes graduate Adam Gasior’s hand before Gasior receives a diploma at Maine East High School’s graduation in Rosemont on May 19, 2024 at the Rosemont Theatre. (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)

“It’s a little bittersweet, but the show will go on,” Wallace said.

Many students decorated the tops of their caps or mortarboards. Twins Marianna and Rocco Pelagio, 18, of Niles, were among them, together as they waited to report to graduation.

On top of Marianna’s cap were white flowers with pearls and two photographs of her late grandfather Giuseppe with the words: “This one is for you, Nonno.” Marianna also has her grandfather’s name tattooed on the bottom of her forearm.

“I wish he were here to see us graduate, my brother and I,” Marianna said.

The twins’ grandfather died last September.

“I just wish he could be here,” Rocco said, “and be with the family.”

For his late grandfather Giuseppe.  Wearing her cap dedicated to her late grandfather Giuseppe, Marianna Pelagio, 18, of Niles graduated with her twin Rocco, left, at the Maine East High School graduation in Rosemont on May 19, 2024 at the Rosemont Theater .  (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)
For his late grandfather Giuseppe. Wearing her cap dedicated to her late grandfather Giuseppe, Marianna Pelagio, 18, of Niles graduated with her twin Rocco, left, at the Maine East High School graduation in Rosemont on May 19, 2024 at the Rosemont Theater . (Karie Angell Luc/Pioneer Press)