Class of 2019: prepared and inspired to contribute

Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 5/31/2019 12:00:00 PM

Congratulations to the over 700 students who graduated from Manual Academy, Peoria High School and Richwoods High School on May 18.


The graduates from our three high schools earned a combined $9.2 million in college scholarships and grants!  I am impressed with our students’ hard work and dedication in achieving this impressive feat. I am also grateful for our teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, and of course parents, for helping them every step of the way.


As I listened to salutatorian and valedictorian speeches last Saturday, I was also impressed by the wise words of these young people.


  • Both Manual Academy valedictorian Tyra Johnson and Richwoods High School valedictorian Lawrence Lin spoke of the importance of taking chances. Johnson expressed gratitude for learning to “Be comfortable with being uncomfortable because that is what it takes to be your best self.”

  • Similarly, Lin credited Wayne Gretsky’s famous quote -- “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.” -- for convincing him to move beyond his comfort zone. “The fear of failure held me back,” Lin told the crowd gathered at Bradley University’s Renaissance Coliseum. “Now I’d rather take a leap of faith and fail because every chance becomes a lesson.”

  • Johnson and Manual Academy salutatorian Trinity Smith spoke of the need to defy others’ expectations of Manual Academy and Peoria’s south side. Smith, her mortar board decorated with the University of Illinois logo, urged classmates, “Let’s be the ones to break the negative stereotype about Manual Academy and the south side of Peoria.” Johnson echoed her sentiments, “I believe Manual is the best school in District 150. The amount of time, dedication, passion and pride I see throughout the building is truly amazing.”

  • Students also spoke of the importance of accepting themselves and others, despite differences. Richwoods valedictorian Razan Naffakh, spoke of growing up in Peoria as an “Arab-Syrian-Muslim girl.” She spoke of the Richwoods community’s diversity and the overwhelming respect and support of her friends, peers, teachers and faculty. “My labels should never restrict me but should empower me,” she said. Peoria High School valedictorian Olivia Streeter expressed a similar thought, “Our differences make us who we are, and we cannot compare ourselves to one another.”


The Peoria Public Schools vision is to graduate each student prepared and inspired to contribute to the world.  I am confident that the class of 2019 is well on its way to making that vision a reality.