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Riverdale High School, Port Byron, has selected these outstanding seniors from its graduating class:


Aleck J. Reece, child of Matthew and Kristen Reece, plans to major in Mechanical Engineering at University of Wisconsin-Platteville. 

Top 3 achievements: Illinois State Scholar, National Merit Scholarship Finalist and UW-Platteville Chancellor Scholar

What is something you learned that you will take with you after high school? Throughout high school, I have learned to follow my own path, regardless of my peers' opinions. I have maintained perfect attendance and straight As, even when it was "uncool" to do so. I will take this persevering attitude with me to college and the rest of my life.

The Arts

Emmalyn Mueller, child of Liza Mueller and Matt and Vanessa McMueller, plans to major in Fine Arts at Columbia College Chicago.

Top 3 achievements: Best In Show at the 2018 TRAC Arts Festival, Illinois State Scholar and cast as the Cat in the Hat for the RHS production of Seussical.

What’s something you learned that you will take with you after high school? High school has taught me the value of creativity. I have participated in band, theater, art, and speech throughout all four years of high school. These activities have allowed me to develop my talents and express myself. They have also taught me how important it is to be true to yourself, trust in your abilities, and follow your dreams (even if they seem crazy). I will take these values of ambition and originality and apply them in my college endeavors. I am so grateful for all of the opportunities I have had in high school to learn and share my talents. I am excited to share my creativity with the world. 


Mari Kelley, child of Wendy and Jim Kelley, plans to major in History at Augustana College.

Top 3 achievements: National Merit Scholar Commended, Illinois State Scholar and Student Council Vice President.

What’s something you learned that you will take with you after high school? One of the most important lessons I learned in high school is that extracurricular activities are incredible - they have helped me to discover my passions. When I began my freshman year of high school at Riverdale, I signed up for theater, band, choir, speech, scholastic bowl, and student council. Over the last four years that list has changed, but only slightly. I don’t think I could be more thankful for what those activities gave me. My participation in music programs has helped me to become a better musician, and also a leader. Theater and speech have made me confident in myself, as well as providing me with lasting friendships. Each activity I participated in helped me to grow into the person I am today; through these programs I have discovered what I love to do. I believe that every student should participate in extracurriculars throughout high school.


Ashley Garber, child of Kevin and Deann Garber, plans to major in either Special Education or Speech Pathology at Black Hawk College.

Top 3 achievements: Illinois Principal Association Leadership award, Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizens award and Basketball Coaches Award.

What’s something you learned that you will take with you after high school? In high school, I learned that it is easier to be the bigger person. Although it can be hard to take the high road, it is the best route to take because not only do you feel better, but so will the other person. High school can be a hard place for a lot of people and many have things going on at home that they never talk about so you never know what burden people could be carrying. As you face problems in your life, you will learn from your mistakes making it easier the next time something similar happens which will allow you to deal with the problem easier. In the future, I plan on continuing to be the bigger person because nobody knows the struggles that other people could be going through and it is less stressful.

Math/The Sciences

Noah Tackett, child of Nathan and Jeni Tackett, plans to major in Finance at the University of Kansas.

Top 3 achievements: Illinois State Scholar, SAT Gold Award and 2018 Pitcher of the Year.

What’s something you learned that you will take with you after high school? High school has taught me the importance of time management and organization. I will take these skills to college and my professional life. Staying organized has helped me succeed during high school as I always have my tasks and priorities in order. My time management skills allow me to complete my day without stressing about when I will complete homework or study. As high school classes became tougher, these skills became even more important. These skills will be beneficial to me in college as I will be required to put much more effort into schoolwork outside of the classroom.

Vocational Education 

Karson Smeltzly, child of Mike and Marla Smeltzly, plans to major in Mechanical Engineering at Black Hawk College.

Top achievements: Senior Basketball Team Captain, National Honors Society and Homecoming King.

What’s something you learned that you will take with you after high school? During high school I have learned countless things including life lessons. Most importantly I have learned that you should always take chances. When I take chances I have the opportunity to experience new things. Throughout high school I have taken many chances for example participating on the football, basketball, and baseball teams. Also I enrolled myself in many clubs not knowing what I was getting myself into. By taking these chances, it has forever changed my high school experience. I have made so many friends, I have made tons of memories, and I learned that sports are not all about winning. Throughout my high school years I have learned that taking chances is an important part of life. I plan to apply this into my everyday life after high school. By taking chances in life after high school I plan to learn from my mistakes and better myself as a person. Taking a big chance in life may even land yourself an outstanding job. In conclusion I plan to take my life lesson of taking chances into the real world after high school. Given that it has helped me tremendously in high school, I hope it brings the same success later in my life!

Young Journalist

Mattie Francis, child of Andy and Tracy Francis, plans to major in Communications and Political Science at Central College in Pella, IA.

Top 3 achievements: Illinois State Scholar, three-time member of the Sectional Speech Team and being elected as an officer in NHS for two years.

What’s something you learned that you will take with you after high school? High school has taught me to keep an open mind and to be involved. Through extracurriculars, some I never thought I would be a part of, I have learned leadership skills. These skills and experiences will serve me for the rest of my life. I cannot imagine my life without being a part of the speech team or the theater department. These activities forced me to be brave and have confidence in myself. This newfound confidence has allowed me to continue to participate in theater in college. Bravery makes all aspects of life easier to handle. I could not be more grateful for the teachers, directors, coaches, and friends who encouraged me in all of these endeavors. Without keeping an open mind and being involved, I would not be the person I am today. I will carry these experiences with me as I embark on my next academic and extracurricular adventures.

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