Kelly Dransfeldt, the keynote speaker at Morris Community High School's Honors Recognition Night, gave the honorees many pieces advice, including that small actions do make a difference.
But he left the senior class with a final question, "Who from this group will be up here in 20 years to give this speech and why?"
The 29th annual honors night recognized more than 200 students from all four grade levels. The program was held in the school's gym and guests were treated to appetizers prepared by the school's food class. The evening was sponsored by Jim and Carol Baum of Morris.
"After being here for four years and finally sitting in the front row and getting specially recognized, it feels like an extra accomplishment because I kept it up for so long," said Senior Anna Pfaff, who has been an honor student for her entire high school career.
Dransfeldt is a 1993 graduate of Morris High and a 2005 graduate of Lewis University. He currently is a financial adviser for Grundy Bank. Prior to moving back to Morris to raise his family, he played college baseball at the University of Michigan and was a fourth-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 1996. During his nine-year baseball career he played for Texas, Cincinnati, Boston and the Chicago White Sox.
The alumnus shared a story about Alabama football player Trent Richardson.
"He was recently chosen the third overall pick of the recent NFL draft, and will undoubtedly be a millionaire and will likely be a star in the NFL. But it’s not his football or financial status that I speak of him tonight. It’s his leadership, character and service that make him worthy of praise," Dransfeldt said.
It is the type of person that Richardson is that Dransfeldt wanted the students to know about. He told a story about Richardson reaching out to someone he had never met.
A year ago, a high school student named Courtney Alvis was fighting an aggressive form of leukemia. She missed her junior prom due to her fight, but by her senior prom she was ready — she even had her dress — but no one asked her to prom.
"When Richardson learned of this scenario, he called and asked Courtney, a girl he hasn’t met and doesn’t know, to her senior prom. Now, I’ve obviously never met Trent Richardson, but he’s a name and person that has left a footprint on my mind since the time I heard this story," Dransfeldt said.
"What Trent Richardson did embodied what leadership, character and service are all about. It’s these things that I want to reflect on tonight: leadership, character and service to others," he continued.
Dransfeldt encouraged the students not to let their success stop at the honors night. He challenged them to be leaders and to give back, no matter how young they are or how old they get.
Your choices make your character, he said. Following the example of his wife, a teacher who discusses character regularly in her classroom, he asked the students to think about three questions: Who are you when no one is looking? What will you do when you think no one will see? What would you do if you knew you'd never get caught?
Each honors student walked before their peers and was given a certificate by the administrators, starting with the seniors.
In his introduction, Superintendent Dr. Pat Halloran called this senior class one of the best and brightest Morris High has had in his eight years with District 101.
"You're one of the most promising classes, don't stop now," he said.