Thirty-seven students in Galva High School’s Class of 2019 were presented their diplomas at Sunday’s 144th annual graduation ceremony.

Thirty-seven students in Galva High School’s Class of 2019 were presented their diplomas at Sunday’s 144th annual graduation ceremony.

Class of 2019 graduates receiving their diplomas were Joshua Allen, Raige Ballard, Charla Bates, Remington Bell, Michael Byers, Sammi Cantwell, Michael Collins, Abigail Dauma, Caelin Foley, Ana Gerard, Cameron Guinnee, Tommy Hagel, Ernst Heinrich, Cooper Hoxworth, Conner Lain, Carter Lambert, Noah Martin, Rian Mott, Zachery Niemeyer, Shivam Patel, Brynn Patty, Sadie Roberts, Rachel Russell, Darrah Schilling, Trudy Selman, Jared Serres, Gunner Spivey, Sumner Strom, Chase Sumner, Parker Taylor, Chase Weber, Emilyann Wexell, Elizabeth Whitford, Josie Williams, Logan Wilson, Ashley Withrow and Cameron Wood.

Spivey delivered the welcoming comments.

“Our class is made up of many different characters, attitudes, goals, desires and lots of competition,” Spivey said. “I believe these are the qualities that make the Class of 2019 so great and will propel us to even more success in the future.”

Five members of the class were introduced as valedictorians — Patel, Spivey, Taylor, Wexell and Whitford — and presented with medals.

Patel, Taylor and Whitford delivered the honor student addresses.

“I don’t think we would be standing here today — with everything we have accomplished — if the support of our friends, teachers and families wasn’t there to fuel our passion for success,” Patel said.

“Our teachers are people who dedicate their careers to raising the future generations of America. They give the priceless gift of knowledge and wisdom — at no cost to kids — in hopes they use that knowledge and wisdom to make this world a better place,” Patel added. “They treat us like their own kids, always wanting the best for us.”

“Through it all over our years at Galva, we have matured, grown and created bonds that cannot be broken,” Taylor said. 

“We have not been the easiest class to deal with, as our teachers can vouch for that,” Taylor added, “but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Galva has been our home, allowing us to meet each other, grow together and setting us up for our future successes.”

Whitford paid tribute to the career of her grandfather, fisheries biologist Kenneth Russell

She said Russell spent his career studying, recording and cataloging the history and elements of every lake, stream and river in west-central Illinois.

“To some people, this might seem like hard work,” Whitford said, “but to my grandfather, it was his calling. He would often say, it’s not work. I’ve never worked a day in my life.”

Russell earned many awards in his career — a granite monument stands in his honor on the east side of Lake Storey in Galesburg — but the passion for his work is what stands out most to his granddaughter.

“Ken is known throughout west-central Illinois as an outstanding educator, author, historian and true gentleman. What a legacy he has left for his grandchildren. This is the passion for a career that I wish for all of us today,” Whitford said. “Graduates, when choosing a career, I aspire you to be like my grandfather — driven, passionate and always willing to share your passion with others.”

Superintendent Doug O’Riley reflected on the start of his career at Galva being intertwined with the first day of school for the Class of 2019 13 years ago.

“It has been a privilege to watch you grow up and see a few join your class on your pathway from kindergarten to 12th grade,” O’Riley said. 

Andrea Calef, a 2001 graduate of Galva High School, was the ceremony’s guest speaker. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in classical civilization from the University of Illinois, but her interest in the medical profession steered her to a Physician’s Assistant certificate and Master of Health Sciences degree from Duke University, where she graduated with honors.

She currently works in cardiac surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Md.

“The twists and unexpected turns, and how we respond to them, are what shape us,” Calef told the graduates.

Calef was born and raised in Galva and her father, Larry, still lives here and continues to run the service station on old Route 34. She recalled holding numerous jobs growing up — working the cash register at her dad’s gas station, waiting tables at Pizza Hut, stuffing newspapers at Boston Trucking and detasseling corn. She relayed the strong work ethic that detasseling instilled, and how that would help open an educational opportunity in the future.

When she was 15, her dad suffered a heart attack and needed a bypass operation. He came through the health scare just fine, and the experience shaped Calef’s career path.

“It was after my dad’s heart attack that I decided I wanted to work in medicine,” Calef said.

She admitted to taking a “bit of a crooked path through college” with her degree in classical civilization, “which turns out, isn’t the best degree if you’re aiming for a career in medicine.”

Unsure of the next step and feeling bad about falling off track in her pursuit of a medical career, Calef began taking night classes, earned an EMT license and started work with an ambulance company.

She was accepted into Duke University, due in part to an application essay detailing the work ethic developed by detasseling corn while growing up Galva 

“Sometimes you just don’t know what you’re going to learn the most from when you’re doing it,” Calef said.

“Go forth proudly and confidently, but don’t be discouraged by those detours along the way,” Calef added. “Find something you love to do, something that drives and guides you, and if you follow your heart you’ll end up exactly where you need to be.”

Wexell gave the ceremony’s closing remarks.

“Thank you for supporting us, guiding us and loving us in the past and the present, and as we continue on our path,” Wexell said. “As we come to a close in this chapter of our lives, remember always try to push where you’re going but never forget where you’re from. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.”

Lain led the class in the turning of tassels.