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By Dan McGrath

The ceremony was as enjoyable as the Mother’s Day weather, and that’s saying something. 

Clear, sunny skies and warm, gentle breezes made for a perfect setting for Leo High School’s 95th commencement exercise, held at St. Margaret of Scotland Church on Sunday, May 12 – Mother’s Day, in keeping with a longstanding Leo tradition.

Mothers are always part of the show at a Leo graduation, and this year’s – recognizing the Class of 2024 – was no exception. Mr. Titus Redmond had his Senior English classes prepare Mother’s Day-themed poems, framed copies of which the graduates presented to their moms during the ceremony. 

Kendall Alexander lost his mother to a sudden illness earlier in the school year, so the poems presentation was emotionally taxing for him. Credit the Leo Family, represented by the Dr. Shaka Rawls Family, with a gracious intervention.

Principal Rawls took the microphone to announce he was “adopting” Kendall as his brother and would share his mother with him. Whereupon Shaka’s mom, Dr. Andre Rawls, joined Kendall at the front of the church and happily accepted the assignment with a heartfelt embrace.

“We pride ourselves on being a family at Leo, and families support each other and look out for each other in good times and bad,” Principal Rawls said.


If it was their last official function as Leo students, Everardo Santana and Theauntae Jones worked overtime.

Santana, who is headed for UIC, delivered the valedictorian address as the top-ranked student in the graduating class. Redmond selected Santana and Jones to read their Mother’s Day poems to the packed-church audience. Jones, who will attend Knox College in Galesburg, led the world-renowned Leo Choir in an emotional tribute song to mothers, and each walked off with two of the 10 “outstanding achievement” medals awarded to the class: Santana for English and science; Jones for music and leadership.

Santana and salutatorian Garry Brown, who is headed for Culver-Stockton College, used their remarks to extend gratitude to their parents, and to the teachers, coaches and administrators who helped make their four years at Leo a meaningful, enjoyable experience.

Principal Rawls praised the class for its perseverance in overcoming pandemic challenges that included spending much of freshman year doing remote learning.   

President Dan McGrath urged the graduates to go out into the world “and make us proud.”

“I know you can, and I know you will,” McGrath said. 

As is the case with all Leo events, the ceremony ended with a rousing edition of the Leo Fight Song, with the newest Leo alums joined by dozens of others in the house.

Leo High School graduation – a ceremony unlike any other.   

And a special day for a special place.

The Outstanding Achievement Awards for the Class of 2024:

* The William J. Koloseike gold medal for athletics: Joshua Burke

* The Bishop John R. Gorman gold medal for religion: Justin Thompson

* The Michael L. Thompson gold medal for music: Theauntae Jones

* The Donald F. Flynn gold medal for history: Jaylen Hopewell

* The Dr. James A. Ahern gold medal for science: Everardo Santana

* The Thomas and Mary Owens gold medal for mathematics: Joshua Ball

* The Stafford L. Hood gold medal for English: Everardo Santana

* The Br. James Glos gold medal for foreign language: Isaac Hall

* The Frank W. Considine gold medal for social justice: Kam’ron Colbert

* The Andrew J. McKenna gold medal for leadership: Theauntae Jones