GENOA – Sophia Maestas-Workowski wasn't sure if she would graduate from Genoa-Kingston High School on Sunday.
In addition to going to school during the day, Maestas-Workowski also took 22 night classes – about one a week – her senior year to make up for absences she accumulated because she was hospitalized for much of her freshman year.
When she wasn't in school, she also worked three jobs: at Rosati's, Crumpet's and the Huntley Dairy Mart. All to achieve her ultimate goal of owning her own restaurant.
"I'll give myself a break when I accomplish that goal," she said.
Maestas-Workowski was among 155 seniors who graduated from Genoa-Kingston High School on Sunday. The ceremony included speeches by the class valedictorian, salutatorian and the two co-presidents of the senior class.
Members of the high school's Class of 1964 also were honored as part of the school's golden anniversary.
It took valedictorian Amanda Murray about five days to write her speech. In it, she paid homage to all of the parents and teachers who helped her and the rest of the graduates survive high school.
"Now we're sitting in our caps and gowns with all of the people who have watched us grow up," Murray told the crowd.
Murray plans to attend U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, this fall to become a commissioned officer in the Navy in four years. She said the thought of leaving her hometown and friends makes her sad, but she'll try her best to keep in contact with her closest friends.
"I'll write letters while I'm in training," Murray said. "I definitely hope to keep in touch with them during my lifetime."
Class Co-President Travis Hughes' speech centered around a game he played called "stingpong," a variation of ping-pong. Whenever someone scored a point in the game, the receiver of the point would whip the ball at the other person's back, leaving a mark.
Hughes said treating people justly and making a difference is how they can leave their mark.
"Our impact is not necessarily measured by what we took, but how we gave," Hughes said.
Some graduates are not going to college this fall. Spencer Stark hopes to turn landscaping into a career when he works full-time for Lloyd Landscaping, 417 Charles St., Sycamore.
Stark said landscaping is its own form of art because it involves beautifying people's homes.
"I like learning hands-on," Stark said. "[Landscaping] is fun to do. It's different every day and you're meeting different people every day."
As for Maestas-Workowski, she'll take a year off school and continue to work her three jobs as she saves money to attend La Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago as a business major and culinary arts minor.
She said graduating from high school was surreal. She even finished three weeks early.
"I don't think that it's hit me yet," Maestas-Workowski said. "I'll cherish every single part of my high school career."
About the graduates
• Number of graduates: 155
• Number in the National Honor Society: 33
• Number in the National Technical Honor Society: 3
• Valedictorian: Amanda Murray
• Salutatorian: Payton Petruchuis
• Class presidents: Hannah Hill and Travis Hughes