Emotional graduation ceremony a tribute to late Hometown teen
BY BOB RAKOW Correspondent May 30, 2012 10:26PM
Krista Wilkinson, left, mother of Kaylah Lentine, gets hugged by Kaylah's classmates during the 8th-grade graduation ceremony at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School in Oak Lawn, IL on Wednesday May 30, 2012. Kaylah is the Hometown girl who died after being hit by a pickup truck last week. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 6, 2012 9:19AM
Huddling with family members Wednesday night moments after an emotional eighth-grade graduation ceremony at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, Bob Nelson marveled at a tribute to his stepdaughter, Kaylah Lentine, that had taken place just moments earlier.
Nearly 400 graduates, family members, teachers and administrators gave the late teenager’s family a standing ovation as Kaylah’s mother received her daughter’s diploma from the latter’s three closest friends.
Kaylah, 14, of the 4500 block of West 88th Street in Hometown, died Friday at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn one day after being struck by a pickup truck about 8 a.m. while crossing Southwest Highway west of Cicero Avenue in Oak Lawn. She was on her way to school to get a leadership award when the accident occurred.
Classmates and community weren’t about to forget her on a milestone night.
“It was hard,” Nelson said. “The standing ovation was overwhelming.”
“This place was roaring,” said Nelson’s father, Guy.
About 20 members of Kaylah’s family attended the graduation ceremony, which began with a moment of silence in her memory. Graduates wore small red ribbons with “Kaylah” printed in silver lettering.
Kaylah’s aunt said the event was yet another display of the community’s support since Kaylah’s death. There had been gestures such as ribbons tied to lightpoles, and a candlelight vigil in the front yard of the family’s home just hours after her death.
“Tonight they did a great job. They honored her great,” said Liz Nelson, Kaylah’s aunt. “It was a two-minute-long standing ovation. It was overwhelming. It’s great that a community came together.”
Oak Lawn-Hometown School District 123 board President Joe Sorrentino told the graduates that the middle school has been inspired by tragedy in the past.
The death in 2004 of former student Brad Pipala motivated the school to raise money each year for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The school has raised $300,000 since starting the walk-a-thon in 2005.
“Take this tragic time in your lives and repeat history,” Sorrentino said.
Principal Paul Enderle praised the graduates for the strength they have exhibited over the past week.
“Our community has had a difficult week and suffered a tragic loss,” Enderle said.
Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Our Lady of Loretto Church, 8925 S. Kostner Ave. in Hometown. A funeral Mass will be said at the church at 11 a.m. Friday. Interment will be at St. Mary’s Cemetery, at 87th Street and Hamlin Avenue in Evergreen Park.
The Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School eighth-grade dance that was canceled Friday has been rescheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday.