DDHS Graduates: ‘Look how far we’ve come’

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DELAVAN — The number: 1,374. That’s how many days have passed since the Delavan-Darien High School Class of 2015 graduates first entered the school’s halls as true freshmen.

September 6, 2011, was long ago, said class speaker and valedictorian Adam Drefs. In that time, they’ve gone from “squirrels” to school leaders.

“Look how far we’ve come,” he said. “Along the way, we’ve changed in various ways. We’ve brought with us our own unique insights into classes, a preview of all the different people we’ll meet in our lives after Delavan-Darien. Outside of school, extracurricular activities have gathered us to bond over things in common, be it theater, football, volleyball, videography. These bonds you’ve made have hopefully given you people you can call on. These teams have taught you to work together to accomplish goals, to be the very best you all can be.”

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Now, for the 200 seniors in the Class of 2015 (189 walked at graduation), will work to be the best they can be as high school graduates.

But it won’t be easy, Drefs cautioned.

“Your teachers, your fellow students, and your experiences have all given you a group of things to call on,” he said. “I hope you’ve appreciated those that meant most to you, because you’re going to need them. The Earth is 7 billion people wide, and you’ve only gotten a small taste of the diversity on this planet. Your bosses and managers won’t always be as kind and forgiving as your teachers here have been.”

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But Delavan-Darien High School has made all graduates prepared.

  • This year, 77 students in the class finished with a grade point average over 3.0, placing them on the honor roll. Thirty-one graduates finished with high honors and a GPA of 3.75 or above.
  • Eighty-two members of the class took 141 Advanced Placement exams in 13 testing areas, potentially earning more than 420 college credits. Through articulated classes offered at the school, many have already earned college credit without taking AP courses and exams.
  • There are 15 students are Wisconsin Covenant Scholars in this graduating class, the last students in the state to graduate with this distinction.
  • Many members of the class have also overcome difficulties to graduate, often times juggling school, work and responsibilities at home. This year, there are 26 graduates who attended the Alternative High School in Elkhorn, or were a part of Delavan-Darien’s R.I.S.E. Program, an alternative school-within-the-school track.
  • Andrew Pierson was named a Commended Student in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program.
  • More than 70 students in the class put in nearly 3,600 hours of community service this year, pitching in not to be rewarded with money, but instead rewarded with the satisfaction of doing good deeds for the Delavan-Darien community.

Principal Mike Kolff read a statement from Dr. Mark Schmitt about the senior class and its accomplishments. Schmitt retired as principal at mid-year due to health reasons.

“In many ways, this class broke thru barriers that may have been in place in other schools or at other times,” Schmitt said via Kolff. “Our school’s great diversity is represented in many ways – in AP classes, on many sports teams, on Student Council, in having a National Merit student in their ranks, and through their leadership in the performing arts.

“This class worked hard to make sure the Freshman First Day was a success, that winning a state championship in (boys) soccer was possible and achieved, and that growth in academics occurred for all students in the PBL lab and R.I.S.E. classroom.

“Maybe most importantly, it was this class that took leadership when Mrs. Carrie Schuknecht passed away last September, with bake sales, supporting the family in many ways, and ‘Schuh’s’ senior homeroom remembering her throughout the year. Likewise, the celebration of Lily Perry’s life occurred in large part due to the leadership of our seniors.

“I am proud of them and their accomplishments over these past four years. It was my privilege to be with them through three and one half years of high school.”

As Schmitt noted, the class dealt with highs and lows throughout its four years, particularly in its senior year.

Business Education teacher Carrie Schuknecht passed away unexpectedly on the second day of school. In early December, Phoenix Middle School seventh grader Lilly Perry also passed away unexpectedly. She was the popular younger sister of this year’s homecoming king Quincy Perry.

The class also had to show its leadership during the transition of school leaders from Schmitt to Kolff. And it was those leadership skills that were developed and honed over those 1,300-plus days as high school students.

“When we began as freshmen we were squirrels, always refocusing our attention on every new detail,” Drefs said. “Then we became wise fools, sophomores. We learned a few tricks of this trade of high school life, but we were by no means masters. As juniors we became vice presidents, waiting until our turn to take over and be the leaders, learning the rules and red tape all along the way. Now we’re seniors, leaders facing retirement. We have all the power and rights to decision making, but we’ve also been anticipating this minute, when we’re leaving, and must pass the baton to the next crew.”

Fellow senior class speaker Aaron Wojciechowski expanded on the leadership this Class of 2015 must display as they leave the halls and classrooms of DDHS and venture out into an adult world.

“Looking towards the future, the class of 2015 is one of diversity, integrity and leadership,” Wojciechowski said. “We are leaving high school as young adults who will shape the world into a better place. We are a generation that is experiencing and creating social change, and we will take what we have learned from our parents, teachers, community and peers and continue to create a better future for generations to come.”

This class has certainly left its mark on Delavan-Darien High School. It did so also with its senior class gift, a comet mural on the wall outside the associate principals office.

Below the mural is the senior class quote, which comes from an unknown author:

“No matter how dark your world may seem, there are stars. But if those stars burn out, don’t forget that there are still comets.”

Vignettes:

  • The class Valedictorian was Adam Drefs, who had a grade point average of 4.535. The Salutatorian was Amanda Lee who finished with a GPA of 4.342.
  • Five members of the Class of 2015 have enlisted for military service. They are: Ricardo Cruz, Active Duty U.S. Army; Doug Olinski, Wisconsin Army National Guard; Quincy Perry, National Guard; Justin Sorg, Army; Cameron Zabel, Active Duty U.S. Army.
  • Thirty-five of the school’s top 38 academically-ranked students all got at least one local scholarship award. The Delavan-Darien Foundation awarded $64,000 in scholarships to 39 students. The total local scholarship amount from 123 area scholarships, including Foundation-managed awards, was $148,500 going to 62 total students. Including nearly $865,000 in other awards and grants from outside the area, graduates were awarded $1,012,780 for their continuing educations (local and non-local scholarships).DDHS senior Max Grover was one of 10 Wisconsin students to earn a Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin 2015 “Student of Integrity” scholarship worth $2,500.
  • DDHS senior Alonzo Ortiz earned a full scholarship to UW-Madison. He was one of 10 Wisconsin golf caddies to earn the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship – a full, four-year housing and tuition college scholarship — awarded through the Western Golf Association Evans Scholars Foundation.

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