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updated: 3/26/2010 1:42 PM

Olympic gold medalist says thank you to his school

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  • Evan Lysacek says hello to his former ballet teacher, Svetlana Kapela, at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville on Friday.

      Evan Lysacek says hello to his former ballet teacher, Svetlana Kapela, at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville on Friday.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

The message from Neuqua Valley's most famous Wildcat was simple and heartfelt: Thank you, Neuqua.

Thank you to the administrators and teachers who worked it out so Evan Lysacek could get a real high school education while training for hours everyday to become a world champion figure skater. Thank you to the classmates and community that supported him.

"I did not want to pass on the opportunity to be a graduate of this high school," he told the cheering, chanting crowd.

Lysacek got the chance to touch base with many of his former teachers, including Ardis Geighes, who taught him Advanced Placement Statistics.

She remembered how "we worked very hard, one on one" so the future Olympic gold medalist could catch up with the rest of the class after returning from a competition in Europe or Asia.

Social studies teacher Inna Kagan recalled his "drive and motivation" to succeed both in school and at skating.

And that's a lesson assistant principal Lance Fuhrer, Lysacek's World History teacher, hoped wouldn't be lost on students dazzled by Lysacek's gold medal or "Dancing with the Stars" gig.

"I hope our kids grasp some of the deeper meaning of what he's really about," Fuhrer said.

Lysacek made time for an interview with students from The Echo, the school newspaper. Sports Editor Elizabeth Maluta, a senior, called him "a special role model of us."

"We're just really proud to have him back," said senior Taylor Read, a member of the school's lighting and sound crew.

Amid all the happy hoopla and flashing cameras, the greater lesson of Lysacek's success wasn't lost on students.

"It's really cool that he was a student here and he was able to achieve his goals," said freshman Emily Aron.

His success, added freshman Jenny Lee, makes students think, "We can do great things as well."

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