KIRKLAND – Stephan Dreas drove 600 miles from Tullahoma, Tenn., to see his daughter, Amanda Dreas, graduate.
He watched proudly, with a video camera in hand, as Amanda walked into the Hiawatha High School gym Friday with the rest of the Class of 2013.
Dreas said he couldn’t believe how quickly his daughter’s past 18 years have flown and how much she has already achieved. Amanda, one of the 40 members of Hiawatha’s graduating senior class, was co-salutatorian.
“You can’t be more proud of a child to accomplish something like that,” Dreas said.
As the Hiawatha seniors celebrated their last few moments as high school students during Friday’s graduation ceremony, many of them, including Lauren Leffelman, were experiencing a roller coaster of emotions as they stood together as a class one last time.
“We’ve known each other for so long, being from such a small class,” she said. “We’ve grown as a family.”
Hiawatha Principal Mark Zych agreed that the tight-knit group has been a strong support system for each other over their 12 years together.
“They’re just great kids,” he said. “So respectful, so driven; these are the kind of kids you’d be very proud to call your own.”
Before the students prepared to file into the gym for the ceremony, Zych rounded them up into a huddle and gave them a few words of encouragement.
“I cannot be more proud of the people you have become and what you’ve done,” he told them.
Kim Flores felt one of the more notable accomplishments of her class was that all 40 of them would be continuing their education at a post-secondary institution.
Flores is one of three graduates who will move out of state in the fall. She will attend Northeast Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant, where she will study to become a dental hygienist.
Although the change of scenery will be quite an adjustment for the Kirkland native, she said she’s ready to move on.
“I’m more excited than I am nervous,” she said.
While some students will attend schools in Florida, Iowa and Texas, Tatiana Spung said she doesn’t mind staying local by attending Kishwaukee College to study physical therapy.
Leffelman, who will attend Aurora University for nursing, said no matter where her classmates end up, she knows they all have the capabilities to accomplish anything they set their minds to.
“I think we’re all going to do big things,” she said.