The last class went out first class.
With a degree of pomp and circumstance, the final group of young men and women who can call themselves graduates of Brookhaven High School entered a ballroom at the Greater Columbus Convention Center on the afternoon of May 31.
Their arrival was greeted with cheers and applause, now for this graduating senior, now for that one. The flashes of cellphone cameras greeted the students, wearing blue robes with blue-and-yellow tassels on their mortarboards.
Principal Duane R. Bland welcomed the graduates and their guests for what he called a "very special occasion."
Deepa Adhikari and Mikira Roberts were the co-valedictorians. The former, who received a diploma of graduation with a certificate of specialization in science, was a member of the National Honor Society and will attend Wright State University. The latter, who played basketball and was a cheerleader, also belonged to the National Honor Society and received a diploma of college preparation. She plans to attend Ohio Dominican University.
The 76 graduates in the class of 2014 for the Northland school that's being shut down after 51 years of existence earned $1.9 million in scholarships and financial aid to continue their education, Bland said during his opening remarks, predicting that some of them would go on to be leaders at the state, national and international levels.
Angal B. Byrne, who received a diploma of graduation and who was on the softball and volleyball teams, will enter the U.S. Air Force; Ronald D. Williams, who was president of the National Honor Society, will attend Ohio Dominican University on a basketball scholarship. He received a diploma of college preparation.
"The past four years have been tough for many of us, but we all managed to pull through to be here today," co-valedictorian Mikira Roberts said after class President Miguel Hawkins led the Pledge of Allegiance. "As we all know, we will forever be a Bearcat."
Khalid J. Weeks, diploma of college preparation, varsity football, University of Toledo; Willie C. Penson, diploma of college preparation, certificates of specialization in math and science, National Honor Society, Ohio State University.
"Don't lose any enthusiasm you have in you," urged the other valedictorian, Deepa Adhikari. "Keep moving forward. You owe it to yourselves. I, Deepa Adhikari, am proud to say I'm a Bearcat."
The guest speaker for the final Brookhaven High School commencement ceremony was Michael Cole, a member of the Columbus City Schools Board of Education, which voted unanimously in March to close the building as a result of dwindling attendance.
"I am excited for each and every one of you," Cole said. "Welcome to the world of grown-ups, where you can pay your own cellphone bill, fix your own bed, pay your insurance, maybe some rent."
Shayla Wigton, diploma of college preparation; Jonathon M. Parsons, diploma of college preparation, National Honor Society, marching band, filmmaking technical crew; Harold Bob-Grey, diploma of graduation, U.S. Army.
Cole admitted things must have been difficult for students, faculty and staff at Brookhaven following the board's vote to close the school.
"We had to make some very tough decisions," he said. "I think that change creates the opportunity for each of us to be champions or chumps. You guys stood up and were champions."
Righteous F. Bridges, diploma of graduation, football, wrestling and track; Melissa D. Rader, graduate of college preparation, Columbus State Community College; Marquita C. Brown, diploma of graduation, basketball and cross country, Ohio State University-Newark.
The graduating seniors -- most of the 76 were on hand, including a few not listed in the program -- received their diplomas from members of the faculty they had chosen, Bland told the family and friends gathered for the ceremony.
Brittany D. Butts, diploma of graduation with certificate of specialization in early childhood education, Columbus State Community College; D'Ache D. Rankin, graduate of college preparation, National Honor Society, Student Ambassador Program, link crew, Book Buddy, volleyball, softball and basketball, Wright State University; Rachel E. Howell, volleyball, tennis, drill team, link crew, Art Club, University of Rio Grande.
"Final Brookhaven class, you'll always be special," Bland said in closing the ceremony.