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Sycamore graduates reflect as they look to future

SYCAMORE – The most important things Zariah Bradley learned in her time at Sycamore High School didn't come from textbooks.

As the Sycamore High School graduate prepared to walk across the stage in the field house Sunday to receive her diploma, the lessons she remembered the most were those she learned from the experience.

“High school taught me a lot,” Bradley said. “Be yourself, go for what you want and live for you.”

Bradley was one of 276 seniors to graduate from Sycamore High School on Sunday.

After taking a vacation, Bradley plans to attend Northern Illinois University to study psychology, criminology and sociology. Eventually, she would like to work with kids or in a prison.

Having big dreams and the confidence to pursue them is one of the distinguishing features of the class of 2014, District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman said. During her speech to graduates, Countryman applauded them for making excellence “business as usual” at Sycamore High School

“One, that you find your passion both in your work and personal life,” Countryman said. “Two, that you always have fun. And three, most of all, continue doing business as usual.”

Valedictorian Casey Bunge used his speech to congratulate the entire class of 2014, which he said is defined by people working together to make the high school experience as positive as possible. He also took time to acknowledge several classmates, such Alex Riley, who lobbied on behalf of the Sierra Club in Springfield for environmental issues.

“Our class has had a very positive impact for our school, for our community, for the world and for the future,” Bunge said.

Student speaker Maddie White thanked her parents for staying in Sycamore after moving there 23 years ago. Like Bradley, White noted things that bind her classmates don't come from getting an "A" in a class or improving grade point average, but from moments. She encouraged her classmates to use the things they learned in their moments at Sycamore as they move on in the coming months and years.

“Look around,” White said. “Take all this in, for soon this, too, will be a moment to remember.”

The moment felt surreal for graduate Temple Duarte, who moved to Sycamore five years ago. She will move with her family to Montana in a little more than a week and attend Brigham Young University in Idaho in the fall for interior design or art history.

“I'm going to miss a lot of the people because even though I wasn't here very long, they made it feel like home,” Duarte said.

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