RANTOUL — The young men and women are ready to turn their tassels from right to left, signifying they are ready to head into the next chapter in their lives.
Members of the Rantoul Township High School class of 2019 will receive their diplomas at 7:30 Friday night. The decision was made earlier in the week to hold the ceremony indoors.
Valedictorian Rachel Klimas and Salutatorian Alexandra Crawford head this year’s class academically. Both will speak during the service.
Scholarship winners will be recognized. The senior choir will sing a song.
Students who are entering the military will be recognized, the school band will perform and Superintendent Scott Amerio will speak.
School board President Anne Reale will present diplomas.
It’s a class of many high-achievers, both academically and in other areas that will help them in later life, Principal Todd Wilson said.
“This year’s class, we had quite a few go-getters again,” Wilson said. “We had a very high scholarship number again.”
A total of $917,500 in scholarships was awarded during last week’s awards night. While not a record, it remains three times more than four years ago.
“They continue to impress with that number,” Wilson said, adding that each class is different. The approximately 170 graduates is a smaller number than some RTHS graduating classes.
He said the graduation rate has remained consistently about 87 to 89 percent.
“They’re just a good class academically as witnessed by the achievements.... We had a student selected to receive the Daughters of the American Revolution scholarship (Emma Larson). That’s something that is chosen between 13 different high schools.”
Wilson said one thing stands out about the 2019 class: Not only are students receiving recognition for four-year universities, they are also receiving scholarship money for certification programs. Two students (Juan Aguayo and Andy Vazquez) received light automotive certificates due to having successfully completed the Early College and Career Academy while at RTHS.
“They can get a job now, but this is just a step now to get their full mechanics certification,” Wilson said. “If they spend another year or so at Parkland, they can get that.”
Another RTHS grad, Emmanuel Lutes, received a scholarship from the Urbana Birkey’s Farm Store. Lutes will receive $4,000 toward his work at Parkland College and another $6,000 worth of tools in an apprenticeship.
Things are starting to change in that regard. More students are beginning to focus on “the trades,” Wilson said.
“We are seeing more recognition of how the trades are important, and students are seeing that as an option,” he said. “Not everybody needs to go to a four-year college. I think that’s kind of a stigma or a myth that has been pushed on our kids for many years. I think that’s why we are seeing a gap in skilled labor because they are being told, ‘You need a bachelor’s or master’s degree.’”
Ten students will enter the military, which is about average for RTHS.
Peter McCusker received a computer foundations certificate, Elijah Hall received the ECCA Computer Outstanding Student of the Year, while Raj Patel earned the Computer Networking Outstanding Student of the Year.
The top 10 seniors scholastically are Klimas, Crawford, Sabrina Fullenkamp, Gillian Gawenda, Hall, Taylor Hannagan, Aden Litwiller, McCusker, Joseph Swiney and Simon Walker.
Illinois State Scholars are Josie Amerio, Crawford, Gawenda, Hall, Hannagan, Klimas, Litwiller, McCusker, Joseph Schluter and Swiney.
Senior class officers are Crawford, Gawenda, Fullenkamp and Klimas.
The class motto is, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there,” a quote from Theodore Roosevelt.
Students who are National Honor Society members will wear gold stoles.
The FFA has furnished blue and gold braided cords to be worn by the four-year members of the organization.
Rantoul Rotary has also furnished blue and gold braided cords to be worn by four-year members of that organization.