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TF North Class of 2020 receives congratulatory video featuring celebrity messages

by Jennifer Yos

CALUMET CITY, Ill. (May 11, 2020) – District 215 recently reached out to their Class of 2020 graduating high school seniors via e-mail, requesting their input on graduation ceremony decisions for this unusual quarantined school year. The seniors answered a survey through the district’s partners @thoughxchng, and the district will review the results and make a decision about graduation ceremonies that are now tentatively scheduled for June 24 and June 25 for TF South and TF North High Schools.

In the meantime, two TF North staff members—Special Education Department Chair Rebecca Willliford and Assistant Principal of Building Control Lauren Gladu—felt compelled to acknowledge and celebrate North seniors’ hard work in a special way. They put together a unique video as a way to encourage seniors not to let the COVID-19 circumstances take away from the accomplishments they have made in the last four years.

Using a website called Cameo, which allows celebrities to send personalized video messages to their fans, Williford and Gladu booked a variety of celebrities to create personalized video messages to the Class of 2020 TF North Seniors. The video includes encouraging and congratulatory messages from:

  • Retired NBA player Matt Barnes
  • Actor Jason Weaver (the voice of young Simba in The Lion King and the character Marcus Henderson on the WB’s sitcom Smart Guy)
  • Actor and singer Conrad Ricamora (Oliver Hampton on How To Get Away With Murder)
  • Jean Elie (Ahmal Dee from HBO’s Insecure)
  • Fred Stoller (Gerard on Everybody Loves Raymond)
  • WNBA players Jewell Lloyd and Morgan Tuck of Seattle Storm
  • Jared Brownridge of Delaware Blue Coats, NBA G League
  • Diallo Riddle (Stevie in Marlon and creator of Sherman’s Showcase)
  • Michael Rainey, Jr. (Tariq St. Patrick on Starz POWER)
  • Actor and rapper Pooch Hall (Derwin Davis in The Game).

According to Williford, the entire video project took a little over two weeks, including requesting the videos, receiving them, and then stitching everything together. The video was published on YouTube on May 5, and within two days they had over 3,000 views. “We simply tweeted the video out and let it go from there,” explains Williford. “We have had an outpour of responses from the seniors. Some who have shared that this is what they needed in the moment, some who shared the shedding of a few tears, and a few who shared they simply needed a message of hope. As a school, we wish we could do more for our students in a time like this; however, we are happy that we could provide them with something to acknowledge them and their contributions to TF North.” 

Jennifer Yos
Jennifer Yos
Jennifer Yos grew up on Walter Street in Lansing with nine siblings. She attended St. Ann’s School and T.F. South, and she earned a BA in the Teaching of English from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a MS in Education: Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Francis, Joliet. For 34 years she taught English, as well as Creative Writing and Drama, at Lincoln-Way High School. She dabbled in freelance journalism for the Joliet Herald News Living section. Now retired, Jennifer appreciates the opportunity to write for The Lansing Journal and is uplifted by the variety of positive people she has already met who are making a difference in Lansing.