Woodlands Academy graduation: almost normal

The school year that began in August with a return to in-person learning ended June 3 with a graduation event much like its pre-pandemic predecessors. Members of Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart’s Class of 2021 received their diplomas during the all-girls college-prep high school’s 162nd Graduation Ceremony held in its traditional location, the school’s chapel.

There were some differences, however, in keeping with current COVID-19 protocols. Each graduate was allowed up to seven in-person guests, all of whom had to register in advance. A live broadcast was available for remote viewing by those unable to be in the chapel. International student graduates unable to attend due to pandemic travel restrictions were included via a live stream. And then there was the addition of a special white mask to the traditional white cap and gown.

In announcing plans for this year’s ceremony, Woodlands Academy Head of School Meg Steele praised students for their handling of all the changes they’ve faced since March of last year. “The graduating Class of 2021 has had their senior year turned upside down during this unprecedented time,” she said. “We are so proud of our students for handling these challenges with grace and resiliency.”

Senior Colleen Sarver added a student’s perspective during her address to the assembly on behalf of the graduating class. “We have learned and grown so much, and we have so many different people to thank for that … including all who worked to make in-person learning a possibility in these times,” she said. “And a special shout out to Principal Rocco Gargiulo and Associate Head Christine Schmidt for spending countless hours shouldering responsibilities to make sure this year was as enjoyable as possible while still remaining safe.”

A brief video recap of Woodlands Academy’s 162nd Graduation Ceremony can be viewed at: https://fb.watch/5W7u0TVrXN/.

The Lake Forest day-and-boarding school’s 35 graduating seniors are heading off to college this fall, having earned scholarships totaling more than $1 million. Among them is a Chick Evans Scholarship awarded to Chloe Williams, of Waukegan. This full-tuition and housing scholarship for golf caddies is renewable for up to four years. It is awarded by the Western Golf Association Evans Scholars Foundation to applicants with a strong caddie record, excellent academics and outstanding character.

Meanwhile, admission applications submitted by Woodlands Academy’s Class of 2021 were accepted at a total of 113 institutions worldwide – from those nearby such as Carthage College and Northwestern University to ones as far away as The American University of Paris, Anglo-American University in Prague, University of Hong Kong, University College London and University of Toronto. The many colleges and universities in between accepting Woodlands Academy seniors for admission include Princeton, University of Michigan, Purdue University, The Citadel, Notre Dame, Boston College, Bryn Mawr and UCLA. 

“I am so proud of these very motivated, talented young women who worked so hard on their college and scholarship applications,” Mike Ford, Woodlands’ college counselor, said. “This demonstrated dedication to their futures is a true testament to their families as well as the education and preparation they received here at Woodlands.”

Woodlands Academy's comprehensive College Counseling program is an important reason why –year after year – 100 percent of its graduates are accepted into college, including some of the most prestigious schools. The program features Woodlands’ unique College Skills class in which the instructor guides students through the college process both junior and senior years in a classroom setting. It’s an example of how Woodlands Academy provides the support students, and their parents, need in the competitive college-selection process.