What are your thoughts as graduation nears?

Hinsdale Central student Gianna Dugan will soon shed that identifier.

The senior is graduating on Monday. And as student body president, she'll also serve as host for the proceedings.

"I'll be leading the whole ceremony. I'll introduce the different speakers, (principal) Mr. Walsh," she said. "I'll also introduce all the students going to military service academies."

Looking back on a most unusual finale for the class of 2021, Dugan said innovation and flexibility became essential attitudes for class leaders to embrace.

"It's definitely been a challenge because of how many limitations we had in the beginning of the year," she said. "We kind of had to figure out how to pivot and be creative."

Online bingo was one of the student council-led brainchilds she cited.

"One of the prizes was getting a pizza delivered to your house!" Dugan exclaimed. "I think we did a good job of making the

most of what we had."

Dugan held the student body president post all four years. With two older sisters and a younger brother, she understands balancing interests while ensuring her own voice is heard. Getting to know so many of her classmates along the way was an enriching byproduct of the role.

"It was great to have that community, meeting people and finding out about all the places that students were involved." Dugan related.

She found cohorts in the Ecology Club, German Club and Poetry Club.

"I feel like I had so many opportunities to explore my passions, and I think it's really prepared me for my collegiate years," she said.

Dugan lamented that freshmen missed out on much of that kind of fellowship due to the pandemic. She also missed having pep rallies and assemblies. She'll fondly remember Red Devil football games and Dancing Donuts days in the cafeteria where students would have to dance to earn a PTO-provided treat.

Mixed in among the disappointments over the last 14 months were silver linings, like spending more time with family and taking stock of one's true ambitions.

"It gave me time to slow down and appreciate the little moments that I took for granted before," she said. "I was able to find that intrinsic motivation to just learn and pursue the things that I'm passionate about."

Chief among those is the environment, which Dugan will study at Stanford University starting in the fall. Knowing that those with whom she shared the last four years will soon be heading off on separate paths will make graduation bittersweet, she admitted.

"We're letting go of the place where we've made so many amazing memories and connections," Dugan said. "I think it's going to be memorable because of how much unity we have a class."

To the incoming class of 2025, she advised pushing the boundaries of one's comfort zone.

"Don't be scared to make mistakes," she said. "Get involved. There are so many opportunities at the school. Half of the friends I made in high school were the result of joining a club."

Those relationships will continue, she suggested, even as new ones begin.

"I'm excited to make new memories."

- by Ken Knutson

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean