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Lifers at Graduation: “Thank You”


We at Ideas in Motion Media covered 44 high school and college graduations throughout Northwest Indiana.

From New Prairie High School to the east and Indiana University Northwest to the west, there were 14 Lifers at graduations this year! Whether it was one graduation or nearly 10, our team wanted to express what they learned and enjoyed most about the 2017 graduation season.

Allison Tunstall, Marquette Catholic HS/Purdue Northwest/PNW College of Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences/Hammond-Morton HS/ Munster HS/Merrillville HS/Westville HS/ Valparaiso University: I forgot the importance of high school graduations, so seeing thousands of high schoolers around Northwest Indiana graduated and begin their future was an amazing experience. One thing that stuck out was a decorated cap at the Morton High School in Hammond graduation. It was simple, but powerful. His cap read “Climate Change is Real.” No decoration, just a statement. This moment was important to me because it directly contradicted what so many people say about younger generations. Here was a young man, who was about to go through one of the biggest moments of his life, and he chooses to make a powerful statement about an issue that he, as well as many people his and my age, care about. I hope that young man becomes a leader in the fight against climate change; we need passionate people like him.

Andrew Rowe, Indiana University Northwest/New Prairie HS/Gary Wirt-Emerson/Valparaiso HS: Life moves by incredibly quickly and there are only a few single days, like graduation, that are separated by a true ‘before’ and ‘after.’ To be able to capture one of those days for hundreds of college and high school graduates was an honor. While the college and high school experiences are quite different from one another, one common denominator is graduation. No matter how old you are, it’s a culmination of everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. I noticed a distinct appreciation for that this year across the region.

Anthony Cleveland, Marquette HS/Bishop Noll Institute: 2017 is 10 years after my high school graduation, so there was a ton of memories that popped back into my head. There were many emotional moments from the students. At some graduations, I saw students receive surprise scholarships or honors. It was great to be there with a camera to capture those moments.

Brett Fuller: Oh, the graduation photos I’ve seen. Since 2009, we’ve published so many photos and I like to think I’ve seen them all. One trend I’ve noticed on the rise, which I like a lot, is the decorating of the caps of each graduate. When I graduated back in… well… 2004 (yeesh.), no one did that. Either it was a rule or no one was creative enough to think of doing it. Kids these days – hats off to ‘em.

Chris Mahlmann, Wheeler HS: Covering graduations reminded me how filled with potential and excitement for what is next in life these students have, and how much all the rest of us that are attending these graduations could learn from that. We have the rest of our life ahead of us just like they do – what would we be doing differently if we thought of every day like that? Plus, I realized how much more fun graduations are now than when I graduated: The amount of personality the kids bring, the unique, fun speakers that are presenting, and the cool traditions each school brings.

Curtis Hankins, Hobart HS/Westville HS/Gavit HS/River Forest HS/ East Chicago Central HS/Lowell HS: I'd say that this season reminded me about the importance of family. Once you get going into adult life it can be easy to lose sight of how much your family cares about you, since many people go off and do their own thing. Seeing some of these parents and kids in tears hugging each other showcases that level of love and care. That's something you see at just about every graduation.

Dan Petreikis, Michigan City HS/La Crosse HS: I think that covering these gave me a greater sense of perspective. Seeing the joy on the graduates’ faces, as well as on the faces of their families, friends, and loved ones who came out to see each of them on their special day, helped me to realize what is truly important in life - the connections we make with those who share our lives.

Gordon Stamper, Merrillville/Bishop Noll/Hanover Central/Washington Township: Taking those pictures reminded me to savor the moment and enjoy the people and past experience that helped get you there. It also reminded me of the joy I had and the sense of opportunity and possibility at that age and when watching these graduates, I am enthused about the future of Northwest Indiana and the region’s continued potential.

Jennifer Bissonnette, Kouts HS/Calumet New Tech/Valparaiso University/Whiting HS/Hammond HS/Calumet College of St. Joseph: Capturing the images of so many graduates really reminded me just how important milestones are, even if it's pretty much expected that it'll happen. I've seen so many excited, happy kids lately. They don't care that this happens every year at their school, they care that they are stepping into a new chapter and moving forward. This has been at pretty much every graduation. This graduation season reminded me to pay attention to what's around me. There is so much going on around us every day that we don't even notice, but to someone else those little moments may be a huge moment. It could redefine their life, and seeing the reaction to those moments is priceless.

Jenny Craig-Brown, South Central HS/Andrean HS: It was such a great reminder to me, as a 30-something adult, that for these students, right now in their life, this is possibly the biggest and most important milestone they have achieved. This is a HUGE day for them and it made me so proud to be a part and be able to capture even the smallest part of that. I learned so much about photography; framing, lighting, settings, all of it. I have used a camera many times in my day but taking that many photos in so many different settings really teaches you quickly!

Jessica Campbell, Boone Grove HS/Gary West Side Learning Academy: Graduating high school was always a given and going to college was always a given in my life. That was what you did and when I look back on it now, I wish I didn’t see it that way. I wish I looked at it to the way the graduates of 2017 see it. This graduation season I watched kids graduate high school and each one of them truly enjoyed, praised, rejoiced, and celebrated the work they put into making that day a reality. It was not a given, it was an accomplishment. I had a blast watching the graduates’ baby pictures of Boone Grove flash over a PowerPoint and laughed out loud at the dance moves and cheers coming from every student and every parent at Gary West Side. It was an honor to see and be a part of. Thanks!

Max Willis, Gary Wirt-Emerson HS/Munster HS: The graduation at Emerson was most memorable because the students and the faculty clearly had a very tight bond. I knew watching it that those students were going to remember those faculty and the lessons they learned at that school. While covering these, I was reminded not take life so seriously and remember to enjoy the moments that I'm a part of.

Stephanie Swearington, Merrillville HS: I would say I loved how enthusiastic all the graduates were and it reminded me of how momentous graduation is, and how it essentially is a milestone in a person’s life whether it be high school, undergraduate school, or grad school.

Over the last month, several articles were written, hundreds of pictures were taken, and thousands of smiles were spread across faces. Yet, we just want to say one thing:

“Thank you, class of 2017 for letting Ideas in Motion Media be a part of your special day!”

Head to our Graduation Station article to see all of our photos of the graduates of 2017!

Copyright © 2017 Ideas in Motion Media