Saying goodbye to Glenbrook North without the usual senior moments

  • Gemma Gardner

    Gemma Gardner

  • Glenbrook North senior Gemma Gardner sings "Stand By You" at the high school's annual variety show, "Vision."

    Glenbrook North senior Gemma Gardner sings "Stand By You" at the high school's annual variety show, "Vision." Courtesy of Gemma Gardner

  • Fernando Hood

    Fernando Hood

  • Ethan Levy

    Ethan Levy

Updated 6/19/2020 12:51 AM

Given all they'd lost this school year, there's a common denominator in the attitudes of Glenbrook North seniors moving forward.

Don't take things for granted.


"Just take advantage of everything that's offered to you," said Fernando Hood, one of the 507 seniors from Glenbrook North's Class of 2020, which on Saturday celebrated the school's 67th Commencement, a drive-through ceremony necessitated by COVID-19 precautions.

"Don't feel pressured to do something just because other people are doing it," Hood said, "and just live in the moment and live in the future, it'll just happen,"

Although after March 13 coronavirus restrictions dashed three months of extracurricular events and in-school activities and required things like prom to go virtual, Hood practiced what he preached while he had the chance.

He was involved with the Black Student Union, FCCLA (Family, Career & Community Leaders of America) and the Future Educators of America clubs.

A prospective elementary education major, he took the Peer Group class that helps freshmen adjust to high school. He assisted teachers in the Glenbrook North Preschool Program, and also works with elementary students at North Suburban YMCA in Northbrook.

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With that resume, Hood became a finalist for Glenbrook North's award for "Outstanding Boy."

It was tough to be outstanding in the 2019-20 campaign.

"E-learning was hard because some days it was hard to get motivated to do it," Hood said. "Some people figured, hey, we won't get points deducted if we don't do our work, so why do it?"

Ethan Levy worked right until the end.

Executive producer for Glenbrook North Broadcasting, the incoming Missouri journalism student set up GBN-TV graduation logistics Saturday morning before returning in the afternoon to make the walk.

"It's a funny joke, actually, that I might be the first student in Glenbrook North history to have actually played a role in the graduation production while also graduating on that same day," Levy said.


Also an "Outstanding Boy" finalist, Levy's work earned multiple top-five finishes at the Midwest Media Educators Association Video Festival and two of the school's Crystal Pillar Awards from the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

At first, Levy felt optimistic school would reopen. Within a couple of weeks that optimism "flew out the window," he said. But he didn't let it bring him down.

"The best course of action was to embrace the change and kind of work on progressing in this new, you could say 'virtualized' way of education," he said.

Losing face-to-face communication with classmates was troublesome, though.

"You get to form relationships with people you might not normally talk to or consider a close friend," Levy said.

National Honor Society member Gemma Gardner was a four-year theater and choir member and sang in two a cappella groups at school.

Like Levy, she initially figured school -- and rehearsals for the spring musical, "Cinderella" -- would resume.

She and others in the cast continued to work on characters at home until finally it was clear the April 30-May 2 production would be canceled.

"I was definitely disappointed," said Gardner, headed to the University of Minnesota. "But at the same time the school was doing everything it could to give us back what we missed."

The soundtrack for "Cinderella" played from speakers at the Sheely Center for the Performing Arts, with a period carriage outside the theater for the cast and crew to drive up to and enjoy.

It's a good bet she'll audition for musical performances at Minnesota.

"Senior year, it comes with a sense of bittersweetness because we know we're leaving," she said. "So we appreciated every last concert, or every last particular event more than we would any other year of high school.

"With everything kind of getting shut without a way to say goodbye, I think it just pushed us to really look for those things we need to be appreciating more."

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