OPRF ‘scholars’ to replace valedictorians

Though the traditional recognition of “valedictorians” won’t take place this year at Oak Park and River Forest High School’s June 8 graduation, school officials insist high-achieving students won’t be shortchanged.

The school decided to ditch the valedictorian distinction and will now recognize all high-ranking seniors as “scholarship cup” students. The school’s scholarship cup actually predates the roughly 35-year school tradition of naming valedictorians, which usually reached double figures. The cup, on the other hand, dates back to 1915 and has honored hundreds.

In years past, the school sometimes had more than a dozen valedictorians eligible to speak at the graduation ceremony. That became increasingly difficult to manage, explained Don Vogel, OPRF’s interim principal.

This year’s 14 scholarship cup winners instead will decide on two seniors to speak at graduation, Vogel said.

Seniors with the highest class rank after eight semesters were traditionally selected as valedictorians, and seniors with the highest rank after seven semesters are recognized on the cup.

A few years back, the school tried to limit the parade of speakers by having some seniors opt to write a 500-word essay to be included in the graduation program. Vogel said some parents and students liked the idea of having their speeches as a keepsake in the program. Students will also have that opportunity this year.

Seniors who would have been likely valedictorians will still lead the graduation procession and will be recognized at the ceremony for their achievements, Vogel said.

OPRF, he added, is following other schools that have moved away from having valedictorians, and the school had considered dropping them for some time. Vogel stressed that this year’s scholarship cup seniors had a say in the decision. They voted amongst themselves to go with the scholarship cup recognition.

“We wanted to make it clear that we weren’t forcing anyone to make a choice,” he said. “Lots of schools have gotten away from the whole valedictorian idea because it became more about competition rather than the recognizing the educational experience of students.”

Emergency drill at OPRF Friday

This Friday morning, Oak Park and River Forest High School might resemble for some residents a scene out of the television show 24.

The Village of Oak Park will host its fourth annual emergency response drill at OPRF’s fieldhouse, 201 N. Scoville, on May 23. Village officials alerted parents and neighbors months ago about the drill, which will run from 10:30 Friday morning until 3:05 p.m. The mock drill will be much larger this time than in years past, said Christopher Shields, emergency response manager for the village.

The village is testing its medical dispensing procedures on a larger scale, he explained. OPRF’s fieldhouse will be set up as a mock clinic, but no medication will actually be administered. Students normally in their physical education classes will participate, playing residents who come in for medication. Police, ambulances and decontamination trucks will also be on site Friday. Excerpt for the fieldhouse, the rest of the building and school day should run as normal, said a village spokesperson.

2008 scholarship cup winners

Eliot Abrams, Wilson Ho, Peter Stein, Caitlin Naureckas, Michael Michon, Scott Marchi, Caitlin Killion, Corin James, Caroline Holkeboer, Zoe Hilbert, Kevin Hallman, Drew Golz, Elizabeth Buehler, Sarah Barrett

Join the discussion on social media!