Commencements Graduate to Bigger Venues Northwestern, Ravinia Replace the High-School Gym
Larson, Kristin, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Nearly two decades have passed since Stevenson High School hosted graduation ceremonies at its Lincolnshire campus.
Larger class sizes - 850 graduates are expected this spring - prompted Stevenson to move ceremonies off-campus to a more spacious, accommodating location than the high school gymnasium.
Since 1991, Stevenson has held its ceremonies at Northwestern University's Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston. In the 10 years prior to that, the setting was the stately, intimate Ravinia Festival in Highland Park.
In many larger Lake County school districts, booming class sizes have outgrown the limitations of the high school gymnasium - forcing graduation ceremonies off campus and often to other cities.
The latest Lake County school to opt for a larger setting is Warren Township High School.
An anticipated 630 students expect to be handed diplomas on graduation day. The Class of 2000 not only will be the biggest in Warren history, it will also be the first to graduate outside its Gurnee hometown.
Warren will hold its morning graduation June 3 at Northwestern, sharing the day with Lake Forest High School, which is planning an afternoon ceremony.
Associate Principal Ron Shelton speculated it will be the start of a tradition at Warren.
"Our graduating classes will only get bigger every year," Shelton said. "We want to be able to allow students to bring their families and for them to be in the actual arena ... rather than being in the adjacent site watching on the big-screen TV."
Last year, Warren's gymnasium was crowded with 550 graduates, Shelton recalled, and seats were limited. That influenced students to support moving graduation to a larger venue.
The main advantage of moving to a larger venue is having unlimited graduation tickets available.
Besides unlimited tickets, there is another plus to graduating in a university setting, Stevenson Principal Dan Galloway said.
"Northwestern is a highly respected institution," he said. "And I think it lends a sort of solemn atmosphere. It's serious, focused and it sort of reflects on the academic accomplishments of the kids."
Patti Volpert, whose son Gregory is graduating from Warren this spring, thinks having the ceremony in such a large arena will be great.
"More people will be able to attend," she said. "Even when he graduated from grade school, we were limited to three or four tickets."
Plus, she said, Evanston is not that far away. When Warren's basketball team played at Northwestern last year, she said, many parents and students attended. …