Birthday serenade part of Oregon High School commencement

Two teachers offer advice to class members

Seniors Katelyn Bowers and Anthony Bell walk into a packed Blackhawk Center for Oregon High School's commencement on Sunday, May 21.

OREGON – Two Oregon High School teachers told the Class of 2023 they were honored to be chosen as guest speakers for Sunday’s commencement and one graduate even received a birthday serenade.

Science teacher Gabriel Poser commencement is a “significant moment and a crossroads in life”. While he stressed academic skills he also spoke on the importance of having empathy for other people.

“We want you to have skills to be competitive in the workforce, of course,” he said. “Ultimately we want you to love other people. I don’t mean the kind of romantic love that, you know, I see in the hallways, all too often throughout around here, but the kind of love that you have for your fellow communities.”

“These seniors have been through a lot and they deserve all the praise we can give,” said Poser, who has taught at OHS for six years.

Spanish teacher Kim Radostits – a 16 year veteran – said the Class of 2023 experienced new ways of learning due to the Covid pandemic.

“We watched you call come back with a positive attitude,” she said. “As your teacher it has been a privilege to witness your growth and transformation.”

Radostits said success is not solely defined by grades or accomplishments. “Success involves finding purpose and finding happiness in what you do,” she said. “So follow your path.”

Raostits was chosen as Illinois Teacher of the Year for 2022 and then selected as one of five finalists for National Teacher of the Year. She traveled to Washington D.C. earlier in the month when the national winner was announced – a math teacher from Oklahoma.

“Just three weeks ago I was sitting in the Rose Garden at the White House just three feet away from the President and the First Lady and they spoke about education,” Radostits said. “And I sat there with tears in my eyes. I took a walk down memory lane and thought a lot about the moments that brought me to that spot. And the truth is, Hawks – that so many of those memories I was thinking about involved each and everyone of you. I know that as Illinois Teacher of the Year I got pulled away from the classroom, but I want you to know that I carried you with me all year.”

Gracie Prose, was one of three seniors who reflected on her time at OHS. After thanking teachers, family, and other school staff members she encouraged classmates not to focus on shortcomings.

“If you have a bad test score – get over it. If you lost the game – get over it. Life is too short to get hung up on disappointing things,” Prose said. “You can’t Google what your passions are and where your heart lies. Go out and make the best of it.”

Sophia Stender and Abigail Rogers also encouraged their classmates to follow their dreams.

Stender also asked the crowd to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a classmate, Zachary Garrett, because Sunday was also his birthday.

The crowd responded with Garrett acknowledging them with his hand over his over his heart and a slight nod.

Earleen Hinton

Earleen oversees production and content of 9 community weeklies and has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.