MORRIS – Seniors at Premier Academy in Morris released balloons with their wishes attached to them before the senior celebration Wednesday honoring those students who will be graduating soon.
"We made the decision years ago to call this event a senior celebration instead of a graduation," Lauren Vitko, public relations coordinator at Premier Academy said Thursday. "This is simply because we do not issue high school diplomas. However, we do like to celebrate our students' accomplishments with them."
Premier presents students with a certificate of completion once they receive confirmation from their home school they have met their graduation requirements. They also present them with a senior gift, which changes year to year.
Premier Academy is an alternative education facility where students progress at their own pace.
Students at Premier don't always spend their entire four years inside the school's walls: Some are there for four days, others are there for a year. Each case is based on the student's needs.
"The road to completing your high school education was not easy. Each of you came with individual obstacles that you were faced with daily, but knew that with perseverance your goals would be achieved," senior classroom instructor Laura Semanic said, according to a copy of the speech she gave at Wednesday's celebration.
She told the seniors it was admirable to see how they each accepted the differences in each other, and how they helped one another despite their own battles.
"Always remember you are stronger than you seem, braver than you believe, and smarter than you think," she told them.
Principal Sherri Frost said Thursday the class of 2014 seniors have displayed a wide range of interests and abilities.
"Their diversities have provided both staff and students with a unique and rewarding educational journey this year," Frost said. "These diversities are woven together by their common goals to overcome, embrace and succeed. They are truly amazing people."
Senior Essence Maldonado of Minooka received a $500 scholarship from the Rezin Non-Endowed Fund through the Community Foundation of Grundy County and spoke at the celebration.
"In coming to Premier I didn't know what to expect," she told those gathered for the celebration, according to a copy of her speech. "I didn't know the type of school it was. I wasn't used to sitting on a computer all day, but after I figured out the vibe I learned how to work with it."
She said her friends told her that Premier was a bad school, but she didn't see it how they did when she was greeted every single day with wonderful smiles.
"You would take one look at this school and just see a red building thinking it doesn't hold much potential," she said. "But behind closed doors, however, it is one of the hardest-working schools I have ever been to."
As of Thursday, Premier Academy had 31 seniors, with five more projected to graduate after summer school sessions. Nineteen students participated in the celebration Wednesday night.