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Valedictorian: 'Leave plenty of room' for dreams

ROCK FALLS – What to keep, what to discard ...

As they move on to the next phase of their lives, there are things, tangible and intangible, that Newman Central Catholic High School graduates will need to pack in their metaphorical suitcases, valedictorian Rachel Hageman said Wednesday.

In addition to cellphones, laptops and cameras, they will need memories of Friday night football games, strong work ethics and a hearty amount of determination, she told her 46 classmates gathered at St. Andrew Catholic Church.

One thing they should not take with them, she said, is regret about mistakes made.

"Please don't pack those," she said; it's time for a fresh start."

The Dixon teen, who plans to become an engineer, has needed determination and a strong work ethic to balance volleyball, basketball and track with her studies.

In her junior year, she sometimes stressed out juggling her Advanced Placement U.S. History class and four other AP classes. "There was a point when everything was a lot," she said.

But she came home from practice every day and studied or did homework for at least 2 hours, regardless of whether she had work due the next day, she said.

"I've developed a pretty good system of getting things done."

Hageman will be taking her suitcases to the University of Iowa, which has given her three scholarships, in addition to scholarships won from the American Red Cross and Comcast, and the John F. Wahl scholarship.

After college, she wants to work for a large company then return to the Sauk Valley to help the area that she loves, she said.

She has wanted to be an engineer since seventh grade at St. Anne School, when an Illinois Department of Transportation engineer came to her class to speak about a project on the Dixon riverfront.

"I think it's really cool that people can use knowledge about how things work to try to make the world better," she said.

Just as she has succeeded in achieving her goals in sports and academics, Hageman told her fellow graduates that she believes all of them have the potential to accomplish whatever they set their minds to.

So the last thing she told them to pack in their suitcases: dreams.

"Leave plenty of room for those."

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