Perhaps no modern graduating class faced more challenges than the Class of 2021.
High school students in The Record’s coverage area — and around the world — learned through a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic that rocked the educational landscape. Learning environments changed from classrooms to living rooms, and students sacrificed classic high school memories — like in-person social, athletic and service events — for the greater good.
Graduation ceremonies held in late May honored the perseverance and hard work of the Class of 2021, as thousands of students crossed the stage and officially completed their high school careers.
New Trier High School
Trevians of the Class of 2021 crossed the stage at a new location this year when Chicago’s Soldier Field played host to New Trier’s 121st annual commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 30.
Approximately 1,000 New Trier students graduated from the scenic venue on a near picture-perfect late-spring day. The ceremony marked the completion of a trying stretch for the graduating seniors, who finished high school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You lived through one of the most challenging times in recent history and now you are here today graduating and moving on to carry New Trier’s mission out into the world,” Board of Education President Cathy Albrecht told the Class of 2021. “I know it was not easy to spend the end of your junior year and parts of your senior year learning from your bedrooms or your kitchen counters.
“You sacrificed pep rallies, Trevapoolza, traditional proms and so much more — all in service of the greater good of our community and our world. Yet through it all you reinvented what it means to be part of the New Trier community.
“You are an extraordinary class. And I know you this very special class of 2021 will carry forward the lessons that you learned during this difficult year with new ideas to make the world a better place.”
Acclaimed musician Liz Phair, a 1985 graduate of New Trier, served as the guest speaker. The Trevian alumna told graduates that they are graduating at a historic time.
“I have total faith in this class,” she said. “I know how hard you have worked to earn your diploma. I know how much discipline it took to balance extracurricular activities with everything else that was going on. I know the physical pain of excelling at sports — I know because I was you.
“Yes, you were robbed of that epic senior year that everybody dreams about. But instead you have this rare opportunity to be the architects of the society you want to live in. To be the leaders in changing the framework of American life into something that suits your values.”
Phair also offered advice to graduates.
“My advice to you is to be brave,” she said. “Be bold. Take smart risks. People will listen to you. And remember, to fail is just another way to say you grow.”
Phair concluded by telling the class to be curious and to find purpose:
“You have the chance to reinvent yourselves. You’re stepping into a new chapter of your lives, where you will have more control than ever over how you spend your time and what goals you pursue.”
New Trier student Zara Anwar gave the senior commencement address, challenging her peers to give the “New Trier treatment” to those they meet from here on out by “recognizing every single person that goes out of their way to make you smile.”
Loyola Academy celebrated its 111th commencement on Saturday, May 22, at the Allstate Arena, in Rosemont.
The Class of 2021 consisted of 479 Ramblers, all of whom conquered the trying circumstances of their senior year.
Loyola principal Charles W. Heintz addressed the graduating class, saying this is “the conclusion of one journey, and the beginning of another.”
Isabella M. Lombardo, who is headed to Washington University in Saint Louis later this year, gave the valedictorian address.
“We made it,” she said. “And while I clearly care about my school work, high school isn’t just about academics, the grades we earned or even the clubs or sports we joined. It’s about the relationships we formed with teachers. It’s about the friendships we made.
“When we look back at our experience at Loyola, we’re not going to remember our final grade in physics. We’re going to remember the people that made this experience so special.”
The school’s Graduate at Graduation Award, which is annually presented to two seniors “who best resemble the Jesuit ideal of being intellectually competent, open to growth, religious, loving, physically fit and committed to doing justice,” was awarded to Carla Flores and Declan Dunham.
Flores will be attending Cornell University this fall, while Dunham will be going to Creighton University.
Loyola recognized theology educator Trevor Clark as the school’s 2021 Educator of the Year, an award that is voted on by the senior class.
Rev. Patrick E. McGrath, who will step down after next school year, offered the commencement address.
“We are sending you to be hope for the world,” he said as he concluded his remarks. “Class of 2021, thank you. We are so proud of you. May god bless you, and go Ramblers.”
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.