Scholastic success

COAL CITY HIGH School seniors are preparing for the pomp and circumstance of commencement. The class of 2019 will be recognized and receive diplomas during a 2 p.m. ceremony on Sunday, May 19 at the high school. The top 10 percent of the graduating class will be honored during the ceremony. At the top of the class academically are (from left, row one): David Kovar, Olivia Skubic, Samantha Lorenz, Kathryn Girot and Logan Barrus. Seated are Brooke Chapman, Cassidy Flatness, Helen Onsen, Alicia LaRouech, Preston Johnson, Lauren Phillips, Sydney Carlos and Brooke Hardy. Standing are Nolan O'Keefe, Luke Manietta, Ben Kreiger, Aras Repond and Geo Ferrara.

Ann Gill

During his four years at Coal City High School, Preston Johnson has achieved great success, a word he defines as “the ability to be proud of your accomplishments.”
“If what you are doing is meaningful to you, then you are successful in every possible way,” said Johnson, who is valedictorian of the class of 2019. Salutatorian is Alicia LaRouech.
Johnson earned top academic honors for the class of 2019 by having a 4.795 grade point average over seven semesters.
“This award shows that all of the late nights doing homework were worth it. It demonstrates that being successful academically is noticed and appreciated on all levels,” he said.
Johnson, the son of Lori and Travis Johnson, will continue his education at the University of Iowa majoring in neuroscience.
LaRouech said earning salutatorian honors with 4.616 gpa is, “A reflection on my hard work throughout my four years in high school and it shows the quality of our classes here at CCHS.”
Alicia, who is the daughter of Tiffany LaRouech and Greg Kelleher, will further her education at Northern Illinois University where she plans to major in communicative disorders with a minor in linguistics.
The valedictorian and salutatorian were both recognized as Illinois State Scholars, and their academic success has earned each a number of scholarships and awards to assist with their future studies.
As Johnson prepares for the next step in his education, he believes some of the courses he's taken have prepared him for what lies ahead in college.
“I have taken seven AP (advanced placement) classes, which have shone a light into the 'real world.' These classes have mentally challenged me and provided me with the tools to be successful at the next level,” he said.
Both graduates were members of the Coal City National Honor Society and scholastic bowl team, and participated in the high school band program.
Johnson was also part of the math team, served as a student ambassador and represented his peers on the student council. He participated in Future Business Leaders of America and was a two-time national qualifier in the organization's competitive events program. He also was a sectional finalist in extemporaneous speaking through his involvement in speech. He was a member of the school's Madrigal troupe serving in the leadership role of king his senior year and was a four-year participant in the musical theater program.
Johnson said one of the positives aspects of attending CCHS has been the variety of programs it offers students, thus allowing everyone to become involved.
“Most schools don't have as many successful departments as Coal City, because they lack the extra-curricular diversity offered at Coal City,” he said.
LaRouech's extra-curricular activities included membership in Students Against Destructive Decisions, POPS, Link Leaders and book club. If given the chance to change one thing about her high school experience, she said it would have been to take a more active leadership role in those clubs and groups.
Looking back on high school, LaRouech said one of the positives of her school is that she's enjoyed the closeness between staff and students.
Grateful for all of the teachers she's had during her high school years, LaRouech said one stands out and that is English instructor Emily (Johnston) Hayse.
“I had Mrs. Hayse for freshman honors English, and I had never had a more innovative and active teacher since. Mrs. Hayse really inspired my love of English, and I really admire all of her work, creativity and generosity both inside and outside the classroom,” LaRouech said.
As for Johnson, it’s his math instructor Matt Lehman who earns the distinction of most inspiring.
“He demonstrates trust in his students while still pushing them to achieve excellence. Outside of the classroom, Mr. Lehman also displays every just characteristic of a devoted husband, father, and coach. Therefore, Mr. Lehman has taught me not only how to be a better calculus student, but also how to be a better man. I am eternally grateful for having him as a teacher.”
The lessons learned from these exceptional educators and all who have taught, directed, coached and guided Johnson, LaRouech and the class of 2019 will long be remembered.
One thing the salutatorian takes from her high school experience is the confidence to determine exactly what she’s looking for and the ability to communicate with professionals who can assist her in achieving her goals.
By 2029, LaRouech hopes to have her speech-language pathology license and be working with children in a therapy setting.
And, Johnson foresees it to be the year he enters into his neurology residency at an accredited hospital, and quite possibly performing on stage.

Coalers prepare for commencement
Commencement exercise for the Coal City High School class of 2019 will be held Sunday, May 19 at 2 p.m. The procession will step off at 1:50 p.m.
Music for the occasion will be provided by members of the Coal City High School band under the direction of Eriq Vazquez
Mitch Hamann, principal of Coal City High School, will welcome the audience, address the class and recognize those students in the top 10 percent of the class academically, as well as those entering military service.
Benjamin Kreiger, president of the class, will provide the ceremony with opening remarks.
Class salutatorian Alicia LaRouech, and valedictorian Preston Johnson, will be recognized and each will present an address.
Unit 1 Superintendent Dr. Kent Bugg will offer remarks and present the graduates. Diplomas will be awarded by the Unit 1 Board of Education led by president Ken P. Miller.
Closing remarks will be made by Lauren Phillips, secretary/treasurer of the senior class and farewell remarks offered by Luke Manietta, vice president of the graduating class.
The community is invited to attend the graduation of the class of 2019. The ceremony will be held in the school's competition gym.