Kenosha eSchool’s graduating seniors took to the stage to receive their diplomas and to reflect on an education environment that has offered them a chance to shine.

Eight of 12 candidates for graduation were present for the formal commencement ceremony that was held Monday night at the Indian Trail High School and Academy auditorium.

Seniors Dana Booe and Duncan Johnston shared stories of struggles that ended with success.

Booe said she started her high school career at Indian Trail, where thousands have pushed through crowded halls. She said the only things she learned were “mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell” and that she didn’t like geometry.

The large-school setting was distracting and she had a difficult time learning while also facing personal challenges. As a result, her grades suffered.

Kenosha’s eSchool, she said, gave her a chance to make a “complete turnaround” academically. One of two seniors graduating cum laude, Booe, who exited with a 4.89 gpa, said it was the best decision her parents made for her. She earned more opportunities outside the classroom holding a job and volunteering in the community.

She said she will be forever grateful for the teachers who helped her succeed. She thanked eSchool writing teacher, Lily Stasik, who encouraged her to continue writing as a form of personal expression.

“One day I hope to put the skills that she gave me to good use,” she said.

Johnston said eSchool helped him find the energy to try. At Tremper High School his sophomore year, he said he was getting only two hours of sleep each night.

“I went from getting Bs, Cs and Ds to getting straight As,” Johnston said of his switch to eSchool. “Even looking back now, my freshman and sophomore years feel like a dream because of how tired I was. The second I started eSchool, the perfectionist inside of me awakened. That part of me had been dormant for so long, I thought I’d never see it again.

“I’m so glad it returned and being here has changed me so much,” said Johnston, who admitted to having been socially anxious. “I am confident in myself and who I am now more than I’ve ever been or thought I could ever be.”

Each graduate was presented with the book “Goals: The 10 Rules for Achieving Success” along with their diplomas. Dan Tenuta, eSchool principal, thanked parents and guardians, along with teachers, staff and mentors who helped to guide and support the graduating seniors.

“All of you have provided the foundation for the success our graduates have attained,” Tenuta said.

Kris Keckler, Unified’s chief information officer, told the graduates they have the ability to effect change in themselves and their surroundings, encouraging them to be compassionate toward others.

“Never stop making yourself better,” he said.

Borrowing from Tom Petty and Heartbreakers’ “Learning to Fly,” Keckler left the students with a message of hope for the future.

“Some say life will beat you down, break your heart or steal your crown. So you started out for God knows where, but you’ll know when you get there,” he said. “I wish you the best as you move forward and congratulations.”

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