Hard work paid off for IVHS valedictorian

By Randi Huang
IVN intern

Shelby Reed

“You shouldn’t be afraid to make decisions that give you a taste of life because we are the product of our own experience.” said Shelby Reed, May 30 at the 2024 Illinois Valley High School Graduation.
Reed, the valedictorian of the Illinois Valley’s Class of 2024, was involved with multiple activities in and out of school: track & field, cross country, basketball, cheerleading, softball, Future Farmers of America, the SMILE (Science & Math Investigative Learning Experience) club, Mathletes, Academic Master and National Honor Society.
Reed will be the first in her family to graduate high school and attend college. “Being valedictorian was probably bigger for my family than it was to me …, but it’s really rewarding knowing that the effort I put in paid off,” said Reed. She has received nine scholarships including the Renaissance Foundation Scholarship.
Reed said one contributing source to her success was her teachers. “Mrs. Szijjarto definitely had the most impact on me.” Mrs. Jaime Szijjarto is an English and Spanish language teacher at Illinois Valley High School. Even though the coursework was overwhelming at times, she learned to become a better writer. Reed commented about Szijjarto’s devotion to her students, “She also puts a lot of personal time and sacrifices in her job, like grading millions of assignments that she gives us that we turned in late.”
In Reed’s journey in her high school career, the COVID-19 Pandemic affected not only her eighth-grade graduation but also her freshman year. “The next year, I was completely online and was 100% at home. For a while, I didn’t even have Zoom classes. I was doing everything through Edgenuity (an online program).”
Reed struggled through classes in Edgenuity with no result. When Reed finally switched to online schooling on Zoom, she saw minimal improvement in her education. “I slept through all of them every day. I had no motivation to do anything. But, the assignments were all easy to get through because I think the teachers felt so bad, so I ended up getting everything done.”
When entering into high school, Reed was “more nervous about a social life than coursework.” It became the most challenging part of readjusting after the pandemic. When asked about high school, Reed replied, “I think it’s more about the experience than anything. You’re going to learn what you want to take from it, and not everyone gets a lot out of it, but they’re learning about themselves more than anything else.”
Reed had a positive mindset toward new experiences and valued the opportunity to experience and explore life. One of these ventures is being passionate about her job as a tour guide at the Great Cats World Park. “I get to work with some endangered cat species. It’s a really unique experience that I don’t think many people get.”
In the fall, Reed will attend Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz., and attend its Forensic Science program. “For some reason, this school really stuck out to me among others, and I wanted to go out of state to be able to explore a little more than what I have and be a little more independent,” explained Reed and added, “I don’t think you can be sure about exactly what you want to do when you’re an adult. I want to be able to help people and also don’t want to sit at a desk for the rest of my life.”
Reed concluded by expressing her interest in pursuing the field of forensic science. “I’m uncertain about the future. No one knows what’s gonna happen in the next two days and a lot can change about a person in a year. But, I know I’m taking a step for myself in a good direction,” she remarked.