The three high schools in the Westerville City School District will send their seniors off with pomp and circumstance Saturday, May 26, at the Ohio Expo/Celeste Center, 717 E. 17th Ave. in Columbus.
Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for 10 a.m. for Westerville South High School, 2 p.m. for Westerville North High School and 6 p.m. for Westerville Central High School.
Graduates should report one hour before commencement and should use the graduate-only entrance located on the southeast side of the Celeste Center.
Parking cost is $5 per car and tickets aren't required to attend.
Doors will open to the public one hour prior to each ceremony.
Balloons and backpacks are not permitted in the Celeste Center.
School spirit and inclusiveness make Westerville Central High School's class of 2018 of nearly 415 students stand out, according to two student leaders.
Senior Megan O'Halloran said she expected many cliques going into high school but experienced the opposite.
"My class is so kind and open to being friends with everyone," she said. "I feel so connected with everyone in the class as a whole."
Something that has stood out about the class is its school spirit, O'Halloran said.
"I will never forget the first tailgate of my senior year," she said. "Out of the four years I've been going to the Central tailgates, this was the biggest turnout yet. It was so exciting to see so many people not only in our class, but in our school come participate to kick off the season and to cheer on the team."
O'Halloran said Central has given her many opportunities, challenges and memories throughout the last four years.
"I had the opportunity to participate in amazing events like Arts Alive, Caring and Sharing, and leading the student section," she said. "I was academically challenged by my teachers throughout all four years, as every teacher pushed me to better myself as a person and a student. I made endless memories in my classes, at school dances, going to games, and participating in clubs."
O'Halloran said she's most thankful for the bonds she has made with so many people.
Senior Carley Weiler said her class has a lot of leaders who are inclusive and accepting, making everyone feel at home and welcomed.
"Arts Alive is an event that has really stood out to me the past four years," she said.
"Students of all kinds become excited and involved," she said. "There is also a chalk walk that surrounds our whole school where students get to create art and express their beliefs and creativity."
Weiler said her role in the class has been to inspire others to be better.
"I think that holding and following strong morals and principles will lead others to respect and listen to you," she said. "I make sure to always be kind to everyone, and I think other people seeing me do this might make them want to be kind as well."
With that simple mentality of being kind, she and O'Halloran started a club at Central called K.U.B. club, standing for kindness, uniqueness and being your best.
"K.U.B. club links students at Central with special-needs students to sit with at lunch, help with homework, or simply be a friend," Weiler said. "We have had incredible support from our principal and many amazing students that participate in our club."
Central principal Tom Lanier said this marked his first year in the building, and he has thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the students in the class of 2018.
"They have impressed me with their kindness and service to others," he said. "We have multiple examples of students doing great things."
Westerville North High School's class of 2018 has made a difference and will continue to do so post-graduation, according to school leaders.
North assistant principal Stephanie McGeorge said the class of approximately 350 students is full of great leaders who have ambition and life goals.
"These Warriors are a diverse group who are political activists, talented athletes, academic all-stars, creative performers and will accomplish such outstanding things in their lives," she said. "This class is unique in that they don't just talk about ideas and sit and wait for someone else to act.
"These young men and women take action themselves and understand how one person can make a difference in the lives of others."
Class officer Jacob Woods said the thing that makes the class of 2018 at Westerville North unique is all of the special gifts, as well as the breadth and depth of diversity.
"The thing I will remember the most about Westerville North is the passion the staff and students bring every day and showcasing that in every aspect of their day," he said.
In addition to being a class officer, Woods was captain of three sports.
"As a leader, it was important to encourage others to get involved and throughout life maintain the Warrior Way which is a motto we live by," he said.
The Warrior Way was founded in 1991 by former North principal Jim McCann.
The school's adopted motto and unofficial moral code, the Warrior Way describes a Warrior as someone who respects himself or herself, fellow students, his or her school, his or her family and his or her community.
Class officer Mackie Mantenieks said her class is unique because many are leaders.
"There is not just one or two people that carry our class," she said. "Every voice matters and it is heard among the class of 2018. Our class stands up for what we believe in and we are not afraid to be different."
This year is different from the past, Mantenieks said, because students have taken a stand.
"One example of this is the walkouts that we led," she said. "On March 14, we walked out of class for 17 minutes and stood in silence to recognize the victims of the MSD (Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County, Florida) shooting. On April 20, we held a protest from across from our school to stress the importance of gun control."
Mantenieks said she appreciates every day that she has spent at Westerville North.
"Although I had fun at large events, the memories that will stick with me forever are the everyday interactions that I had with people," she said. "Westerville North is filled with many incredible individuals and I have learned so much from not only the teachers but also the students.
"The kindness and inclusive attitude at Westerville North creates an environment of positivity and unity," she said.
Students in Westerville South High School's class of 2018 have shown dedication to their school and each other, according to their principal and student leaders.
South principal Michael W. Starner said the senior class of 350 students is filled with talent.
"The students are committed to one another and certainly carry a tremendous amount of Wildcat Pride," he said. "From stellar grades, to the arts and to the fields of competition, our students have much to be proud of.
"They have been leaders in our school and community, and will certainly make a splash in the next chapter of their lives," Starner said. "I feel very blessed to have been their principal."
Senior Josh Coffey said high school has given him and his classmates countless opportunities.
"For me, it has been band, volleyball and National Honor Society," he said. "In addition, I have been happy to be part of the IB (International Bachelorette) program. I am fortunate to have gone to school with so many talented kids.
"We are proud to be from Westerville and super glad to be graduating from this high school. We are unique in our dedication to South and each other."
Senior Grace Yingling said it's the people who make a difference in every situation.
"Here at South, everyone has your back," she said. "From football games, to late-night studying and to support in the community, it's been a great experience. I can't imagine doing this with any other group of people. We are so enthusiastic and love being together."
Yingling said she has been a member of student council, National Honor Society and visible at almost everything.
"I know that South is a special place and will be glad to call it my alma mater," she said.