Class of 2012 discusses its future endeavors
Ridgewood High School seniors (left to right) Nicholas Montanez, Mallory McCormack, Maria Kokkinias and Krissy Sass talk with a Pioneer Press reporter about their time at Ridgewood June 1. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun Times Media
Updated: July 8, 2012 8:11AM
After Ridgewood High School’s roughly 200 seniors graduate June 11 and their paths begin to diverge, the class of 2012 will remain united by an outlook wise beyond its years.
No regrets. No worries. Just raw confidence in who they are and what they hope to become.
“People are always going to have their opinions but if you are really passionate about something and are willing to put in the work than you should go head-on into it,” said Krissy Sass, 17, president of the school’s National Honor Society chapter.
“You’ll feel better because it was your decision.”
Four years at Ridgewood have taught the soon-to-be grads how to be independent and successful on their own and, most importantly, to not to downplay their self-merit.
“There’s a popular saying around here that ‘oh, it’s just Ridgewood’ or ‘oh, it’s just Norridge,’ ” said Mallory McCormack, who turns 18 on Friday. “It’s such a small school that kids think they can’t branch out or can’t do something.” She and her peers, however, beg to differ. Some will go on to play sports on Division I college teams. Others continue their studies at the country’s most prestigious universities, like Harvard, Yale and University of California Berkeley.
“If you apply yourself, you can do whatever you want. You have to push yourself,” McCormack said, pointing to the Ridgewood boys’ soccer team’s second-place finish at state in November 2010 as the most telling example.
In some ways the championship game served as a turning point for the seniors and the school. Students painted their faces, created banners, and piled into buses set for the IHSA Class 2A State Championship at North Central College.
Though in the end the Rebels fell to Peoria Notre Dame, their spirit did not waver. Then-coach Robert St. John gave an inspiring post-game speech back at the school. Students cheered in the hallways.
“After that it felt like everyone started showing support,” said Maria Kokkinias, 18.
This year’s senior class, in particular, felt a special bond.
“Even the teachers have said it, too - we are definitely one of the closest classes that they’ve had a in a long time,” McCormack said. “We’re all really good friends.”
Nicholas Montanez, 18, said his classmates have become a tightknit second family.
“You feel the love and that everyone cares,” he said.
Their four years at Ridgewood sometimes felt like four days, especially during senior year when nearly every moment spent together was treated as their last.
Sass, who played on the girls’ soccer team, said the final game of the season reminded her there are no second chances.
“That’s when it hit me that it was senior year and that we’re not going to see a lot of these people again,” she said. “I’ve never felt so close to my team and focused until that moment.”
The seniors’ post-Ridgewood plans will take them far.
McCormack will move to South Carolina in the fall to attend the College of Charleston. The four-sport Ridgewood athlete hopes to play volleyball either at the collegiate level or for recreation.
Sass, like many of her classmates, heads south to the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana to follow a pre-med track.
Kokkinias, a four-year varsity cheerleader at Ridgewood, will show support for the Flames at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she plans to study kinesiology and forensic science.
Studying contemporary urban pop at Columbia College is Montanez’s back-up plan as his talent show performance of “Thriller” junior year inspired him to shoot for the stars. Montanez hopes to test his singing might at the American Idol tryouts this upcoming July.
Each are following their hearts because, after all, the aphorism “to thine own self be true” is more than a high school lesson in Shakespeare. For Ridgewood new grads, it’s a guiding principle for life.
“Be yourself,” Kokkinias said. “In the end that’s all that’s left.”