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Half the Mooseheart class of 2012 posed for an informal photograph in the Fieldhouse concourse prior to the school's Commencement Ceremony. From left are James Ranum, Erika Nava, Mason Rueger, Daniel Tucker, Komba Sabbah, Noel Yarngo, Musulyn Yarngo and Zach Rice.
Mooseheart Salutatorian Mason Rueger (left) and Valedictorian James Ranum entered the Fieldhouse at the start of the 2012 Commencement ceremony.
Cortney Heston received her diploma from Past Supreme Governor Thomas Hatcher, Chairman of the Mooseheart Board of Directors. Of the 16 graduates of the Class of 2012, Heston had been at Mooseheart the longest, 10 years, nine months and 11 days prior to graduation.
Hannah Avery, who spent one year at Mooseheart as an exchange student from the United Kingdom, became emotional while watching a video of the class' senior year together.
MOOSEHEART, June 5 - Commencement ceremonies at Mooseheart High School serve many purposes. First and foremost, of course this is the day when the members of the graduating class don their Rambler-red caps and gowns and walk across the Mooseheart Fieldhouse stage to leave the campus that has been their home as well as school.
This year, 16 graduates made that walk on June 2, received their diplomas, moved the tassels on their caps from right to left and became the Class of 2012.
Those 16 graduates were watched by over 1,500 men and women of the Moose fraternity, proving the other purpose of graduation day - the annual outpouring of love from the people who unabashedly refer to Mooseheart children as “our kids” - and then go about backing up those two words with financial and emotional support.
Mooseheart Executive Director Scott Hart introduced the class and read the start of a series of phrases, with the audience providing the response. In one of the last of these, Hart said “blood is thicker than” - and the audience responded “water.”
Hart continued: “As you look out in this crowd here, some people are biologically related to you. But everybody in this room is blood to you. This is family, this is a Moose family and you’ve been adopted by these members as their foster children. And they love you and care for you and that will never change.”
This year’s Commencement marked the 94th in Mooseheart’s 99-year history -- and was the 50th consecutive ceremony to take place in the Fieldhouse, which opened for Commencement in 1963. Each of the student speakers in the ceremony mentioned the impact of the fraternity as well as the campus on their lives.
Salutatorian Mason Rueger gave the Welcome Address, and he mentioned the campus and fraternity frequently. Before graduating, Rueger spent five years, four months and 10 days at Mooseheart, sponsored by Bloomington, IL Lodge 745. This fall, thanks to a scholarship provided by the Women of the Moose, Rueger will attend Western Illinois University.
“None of the young men and women you see on-stage would be who they are without the help of Mooseheart,” Rueger said. “With the help of Mooseheart and every Moose member that supports us, we have all overcome our personal issues.”
Later, Rueger said, “Not only do we have the 15 others in our class, but we have hundreds of thousands of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters of the Moose that care about us.”
When it was his turn to speak, Valedictorian James Ranum also mentioned the Moose fraternity. Ranum lived at Mooseheart five years, four months and 11 days prior to graduation, sponsored by Campbell, CA Lodge 1811. He is the recipient of a California-Nevada Moose Association scholarship and will attend the University of California/Santa Cruz this fall.
Ranum described the circumstances that led him to Mooseheart in some detail.
“When I just two, my father was arrested for multiple counts of fraud, leaving my mother to care for three kids, and expecting another,” he said. “Out of hardship, my mother moved us all in with our grandmother. We lived happily in a cramped two-bedroom mobile home.”
Things turned worse two years later when Ranum’s mother abandoned the family. He and his siblings lived with their grandmother until 2007, when they came to Mooseheart.
“I have lived a rough childhood, not realizing how her abandonment affected me,” Ranum said of his mother. “Deep down, no matter what I have said, it did bother me. I wish it didn’t, but it does.”
Then Ranum’s words turned toward the people in the audience.
“I thought no one cared for me, just like my parents hadn’t,” he said. “But now I have people who do. Those people are you, everyone in this room. While unsaid, it is still known that you all care for the kids at Mooseheart.”
In his remarks that followed Rueger and preceded Ranum, Commencement Speaker Wesley I. Crowder, the Supreme Governor of the Moose fraternity, advised the audience that the 16 graduates had earned the respect of those in attendance.
“To all of our graduates, this is walk that is the end of one era of your life and the beginning of another,” Crowder said. “The path you have traveled to this point might have seemed like a long and hard path. You have worked hard to get where you are today, and for that, I congratulate you.”
Then Crowder spoke of the graduates’ futures.
“As exciting as this time is, I am sure some thoughts will begin to cross your mind,” Crowder said. “What will I with all the education I have received? What is the best way to turn the knowledge I have into a career that will carry me through life?”
Crowder then mentioned the importance of teamwork - the same kind of teamwork that allows the Moose fraternity to support the children at Mooseheart, when he said, “In the words of (Mooseheart founder) James J. Davis, ‘there is strength in unity, for a burden heavy to one is borne lightly by many.’”
As is always the case, Mooseheart Superintendent of Education Gary Urwiler set the class on its way by telling them they were dismissed, triggering hugs and final farewells.
Mooseheart High School 2012 Commencement Class,
and sponsoring Moose Lodge
Hannah Louise Avery, Lodge 27, Poole, United Kingdom
Meagan Brianna Henderson, Oil City, PA Lodge 78
Cortney Rae Heston, Leesburg, FL Lodge 1271
Yolanda Marie Linneman, Chicago Heights, IL Lodge 828
Jesse David Mennis, River Park, IL 2578
Erika Nava, River Park, IL Lodge 2578
Erick Alberto Ontiveros, Chicago Heights, IL Lodge 828
Kendall Eric Owens, Berwyn, IL 424
James Ryan Ranum, Campbell, CA Lodge 1811
Zachary Patrick Rice, Inverness, FL Lodge 2112
Mason Isaiah Rueger, Bloomington, IL Lodge 745
Komba Sabbah, Cedar Rapids, IA Lodge 304
Mamie N. Smith, Capital City, IA Lodge 2589
Daniel Levi Tucker, Downers Grove, IL Lodge 1535
Musulyn Nuku Yarngo, Maplewood, MN Lodge 963
Noel Peter Yarngo, Maplewood, MN Lodge 963
Since its founding, Mooseheart has operated a complete, accredited kindergarten-through-high-school academic program, plus art, music, vocational training and interscholastic sports. It is an extremely nurturing and student-tailored program, with an average student-teacher ratio of 12-1.
Mooseheart students who complete their studies with a 3.0 GPA or better (4.0=A) are eligible for up to five years of annually renewable scholarship funding, covering tuition, room and board in an amount comparable to that required for an in-state student at an Illinois public university.
Mooseheart is currently home to roughly 230 students, ranging in age from preschoolers to high school seniors. Applications for admission to Mooseheart are considered from any family whose children are, for whatever reason, lacking a stable home environment. Mooseheart boasts its own U.S. Post Office and a fully functioning branch of Fifth Third Bank.
In addition to Mooseheart, Moose International also supports Moosehaven, a 70-acre retirement community near Jacksonville, FL founded in 1922; and conducts more than $70 million worth of community service programs annually.