A funny thing happened on the way to graduation for these Chicago Public Schools students

WBEZ asked three Chicago Public Schools graduates to look back on their time in school through comedy.

WBEZ
Nate Hetherington, Thomas Curry and Claire Wennink performed comedy routines to mark the end of their middle school and high school careers in Chicago Public Schools. Marc Monaghan / WBEZ
WBEZ
Nate Hetherington, Thomas Curry and Claire Wennink performed comedy routines to mark the end of their middle school and high school careers in Chicago Public Schools. Marc Monaghan / WBEZ

A funny thing happened on the way to graduation for these Chicago Public Schools students

WBEZ asked three Chicago Public Schools graduates to look back on their time in school through comedy.

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With graduation season underway, WBEZ asked three Chicago Public Schools students to look back on their time in school through comedy. We heard about graduates sleeping on park benches at Great America, middle school discussions of fascism and a riff on the tortuous CPS high school selection process.

Eighth graders Thomas Curry and Nate Hetherington both studied comedy at Second City. They’ll be attending Lane Tech College Prep in the fall. They performed comedic essays about their time at school, along with newly minted Jones College Prep graduate, Claire Wennink. She’ll be attending Bryn Mawr College next year.

Below is a taste of their routines and a bit about the graduates, with their answers edited for brevity and clarity.

Claire Wennink: Senior week, unfiltered
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Claire Wennink Marc Monaghan / WBEZ

We had a party bus with disco lights that took us to Six Flags [for a senior class trip].

There are several interesting things that happened. Some of my favorites included walking around and seeing people asleep on benches. Also a couple kids getting sobriety tested while we were waiting in line

I graduated yesterday … It was nice to see everyone’s cap and gowns, also cords, which essentially are supposed to represent honor and achievement. But they were a suspiciously high number of chords. So I’m not making official accusations, but I think they could have been independently purchased. They’re running $5.99 on Amazon. So I won’t name names, but they know who they are. And then again, if they bought their own cords, they are probably not listening to WBEZ.

What were the highs and lows or remote learning and the school year?

In senior year, I feel like everywhere you turn, there’s kind of someone that you’ve been in a class with, or that you know, so that’s a relief. Then the lows were largely academic. I did pretty well … but it’s stressful.

What are you looking forward to next year?

Freedom. I’m excited to see Philadelphia. I’ve never been to Wawa (a convenience store exclusive to Philadelphia).

What’s your advice for next year’s seniors?

Don’t take it too seriously. Everyone’s gonna be fine.

Thomas Curry: A caterpillar goes virtual
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Thomas Curry Marc Monaghan / WBEZ

I am a butterfly. But at the beginning of the pandemic, I was merely a caterpillar. When the wild ride called virtual school first started, I sat my caterpillar butt down on my virtual chair for a virtual class, with virtual caterpillar comrades. Some of them didn’t have their cameras turned on. But then again, none of us had our cameras turned on.

On the bright side, I can say that I paid attention most of the time, except 68.2%, which is a very specific number of the time when the other caterpillars were discussing the acts of Julius Caesar and fascism I would be playing Minecraft and building a house or something.

For all the other caterpillars out there starting the journey: Just remember that everything is temporary. You will have your time to emerge as your butterfly self and hold those you love close.

What got you interested in comedy?

I really liked stand up comedians, and I liked the way comedy made me feel when I was sad. [In] awkward situations, I would use comedy as kind of a way to … make the situation better. And I like making my friends laugh too.

What were the highs and lows or remote learning and the school year?

The highs: I would say Minecraft. I thought the work was easier, and I could kind of go at my own pace. But the highs of coming back in person: I got to see my friends again. When it comes to the cons, most of my social skills had completely evaporated up until that point, because I hadn’t had much human contact for the last two years. A fun game me and my friends liked to play going back in-person was COVID bingo — who will get COVID next?

What are your summer plans?

This summer, I want to do a self-improvement program. Because I think personally I can always change and I can always keep growing. So I have made a schedule for myself.

WBEZ
Nate Hetherington Marc Monaghan / WBEZ
Nate Hetherington: Middle school terrors

These are the scariest things to have ever happened in my school career.

There is a terrifying tale of how one game plagued my classroom throughout the eighth grade. No, it’s not that silly Minecrap game that everyone is playing. It’s chess. It doesn’t need WiFi, but it also hasn’t had an update in 12,000 years.

This year I had to go on a true hunt, the hunt for high schools. Apparently, the CPS high school selection process is harder than the college selection process. I had to be more intelligent than a crow, more agile than a rabbit and more persistent than a sloth reaching for a leaf. I got tossed through the wringer and barely made it out of the selection process with my sanity.

Experiencing Earth from 2020 to 2022 was five steps away from Dante’s Inferno.

What are you looking forward to next year?

I’m looking forward to the very wide selection of options that I have [at Lane Tech]. I’m definitely going to join the improv club there, and probably do more stuff than I can handle.

What’s your advice for next year’s 8th graders?

Keep on pushing through it. I know that some of … seventh grade was very likely quite rough. Eighth grade is a time where you can just sort of celebrate the time that you’ve had.

Susie An covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation and @soosieon.