WAUKEGAN, Ill. - It is the moment high school students have been waiting for - the chance to walk across the stage at graduation and mark the beginning of a new chapter.
But students like Contreras persevered.
"Going from remote and then we finished out the year in hybrid. We just wanted to really celebrate students for actually finishing," said Daniel Hill, Co-Principal at Waukegan High School.
To safely celebrate their students in person, Waukegan High School spread it's graduation across three days.
On Thursday night, about 240 students sat in socially-distant pods on Weiss Field, alongside their two guests.
Students and their guests all wore masks during the outdoor ceremony. Last year, Waukegan High School held a virtual graduation.
About 20 miles away, equal pomp and circumstance for students at McHenry East High School.
"We feel like we're at the tail end of this thing and there's hope," said Jeff Prickett, the Principal at McHenry East High School. "There's silver linings everywhere, if we just look for them."
McHenry East High School's graduation was hosted inside the school's gym in three separate thirty-minute sessions on Thursday.
The moment was memorable for senior, Justin Thorne.
"I kinda tripped across the stage," said Thorne. "It was really fun, it was fun graduating with all my friends."
His mother, Joselle Buan-Thorne, stood next to him smiling with pride.
"They have put up with so much," Buan-Thorne said. "And I'm very proud of every one of these kids."