Drive-In Distinguished Seniors event hits the right note in McHenry
McHenry Community High School District 156 staff and administrators delivered a safe and socially distant virtual Distinguished Senior Honors event on May 27 at the McHenry Outdoor Theater to recognize outstanding academic, athletic and extracurricular achievements of about 200 members of the Class of 2020.
While District 156 officials acknowledged it wasn't the typical end-of-the-year gathering for both the Distinguished Warrior program and Senior Honors recipients, it did get high marks from students and families. The hour-long presentation combined recognition of the 175 students who earned the Distinguished Warrior title, plus students who earned athletic, academic honors and scholarships.
Families could stay in their cars and watch principals and other administrators read each student's accomplishments along with future plans.
"They did the best they could with the situation," said Taylor Zoephel, a Class of 2020 graduate who plans to study criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
Taylor and sister Ashley agreed that the drive-in ceremony was a hit.
"It's really cool to see everyone on the big screen," said Ashley Zoephel, Class of 2020 member who plans to study elementary education and Spanish at Northern Arizona University.
"It's always interesting to see what your classmates are doing."
Carl Vallianatos, District 156 assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said the 175 Distinguished Warriors in the Class of 2020 is the largest number since the program began in 2009. Distinguished Warriors earn an orange stole to wear at graduation by meeting criteria in several different areas in addition to academics.
Involvement in extracurricular activities, athletics, community service and career training are also a part of the Distinguished Warrior program.
"We realize that success goes beyond academics," Vallianatos said.
Students were also recognized for achieving academic honors and high honors, student leadership, athletic awards, and local, state and national scholarships. Also, McHenry High School's Illinois State Scholars were recognized.
McHenry car dealerships Gary Lang Auto Group, Buss Ford Lincoln, and Sunnyside Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram sponsor the program and also provided four $500 scholarships to students chosen at random.