When Bexley High School seniors receive their diplomas at this year's commencement Sunday, May 27, they will hear motivational words from two of their classmates and an inductee of the school's Distinguished Alumni.

The commencement is 4 p.m. at the school's stadium, 326 S. Cassingham Road.

The commencement speakers are seniors Ben Haidt and Emily Markham and 1981 graduate Joel Goldman. Goldman is a well-known HIV/AIDS activist and fundraiser who is the first managing director of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

"We try to find speakers to come back that are Bexley alumni," Principal Harley Williams said. "We have a committee who selects the speaker."

The committee consists of students who work with librarian Mike Nolan, who is the faculty adviser. In addition to his international advocacy, Goldman is known for his work with young people and for speaking to more than a million high school and college students over the years as well as at conferences and for Jewish youth groups. He has received several awards, including the Ryan's Angel Award from the Ryan White Foundation.

Goldman holds a bachelor's degree in public affairs from Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was inducted into Bexley's Distinguished Alumni last year during the school's centennial celebration.

Haidt and Markham were selected through an annual contest in which BHS students submit commencement speeches. The two speeches that receive the most votes from students and faculty determine the commencement speakers, instead of a valedictorian or salutatorian being named, Williams said.

"We try to keep graduation very student-centered," he said.

The achievements of the graduating class were scheduled to be recognized by school and district administrators, parents and community members during an awards ceremony May 21.

While the Bexley City School District does not keep track of scholarships that students receive from colleges and national organizations, this year's class of about 160 students earned $60,000 in academic awards from local organizations, Williams said.

BHS again has been named as a top school in the nation in the U.S. News & World Report's annual Best High School rankings. BHS is ranked No. 185 in the national rankings, No. 4 in the state and No. 1 locally and earned another gold medal. The U.S. News & World Report rankings include data on more than 20,500 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Schools are ranked based on their performance on state-required tests and how well they prepare students for college. Schools were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals based on performance on state assessments.

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