Five valedictorians will bask in the limelight June 15 at the Aladdin Shrine Temple as Whitehall-Yearling High School hands out diplomas to this year's graduating class of 2013.

Five valedictorians will bask in the limelight June 15 at the Aladdin Shrine Temple as Whitehall-Yearling High School hands out diplomas to this year's graduating class of 2013.

All five showed some surprise -- and relief -- over being named valedictorian. All five will share the podium during commencement ceremonies next month, bidding fellow classmates farewell while sending them off with a few anecdotes, words of wisdom and possibly a joke or two.

Though they come from different walks of life, they all share a common thread -- a modern example of a successful high school career, a far cry from the traditional path many high-schoolers were used to taking.

Ifa Abduljelil learned that he was one of Whitehall-Yearling's 2013 valedictorians after reading an email from the schools principal, Carl Svagerko.

"Valedictorian meeting in my office," it read, in part.

Abduljelil was elated. He called his mother first to tell her. She was elated, too, as he is the first in his family to even graduate from high school.

Abduljelil emigrated to the United States from Ethiopia in 2003 and moved to Whitehall when he was in sixth grade.

"It was pretty hard," he said. "I knew zero English when I came. It took me a year or two to master English fluently."

For the first few years in the United States, Abduljelil focused on his education. But then, as a freshman, he was introduced to football.

"I was like, 'You can hit guys?' "

He was hooked.

Soon Abduljelil added wrestling and track to his repertoire, lettering in all three. His passion for sports and interest in the human body led him to settle on a career in sports medicine. He will attend Ohio Wesleyan University in the fall, majoring in pre-medicine.

Anna Butler has lived in Whitehall for most of her life. She attended Holy Spirit Catholic School until eighth grade and then started at Whitehall-Yearling High School in her freshman year.

For the past two years, Butler rarely has stepped into the halls of Whitehall-Yearling. Her love of the sciences and microbiology in particular led her to attend the Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools' satellite program for bioscience technologies at Gahanna Lincoln High School.

"I was always interested in science, but I heard about this program and was really interested," Butler said. "It gives you a lot of hands-on experience so I actually got to try out different fields in the laboratory-based sciences."

She said the experience has given her valuable knowledge while helping her to narrow down her field of interest. Her project focused on bacterial inhibition.

Butler will major in micro-biology at Ohio State University. She is not sure yet if she will end up in industry or research. Either way, she will be doing what she loves, she said.

Samantha Gogol is a lifelong Whitehall resident. She attended Beechwood Elementary School and then moved on to Rosemore Middle School for sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

She had high expectations for herself, telling her dad she wanted to be valedictorian one day.

When she started in high school, she began to set her sights higher and enrolled in Columbus State Community College's postsecondary enrollment options program by the time her sophomore year rolled around. She began taking English, anthropology and a communication class there, helping her to decide on a career. She listened, took notes and studied alongside college-age students. She competed for good grades.

Gogol will attend Ohio University in Athens, majoring in anthropology. She plans to focus on forensic anthropology, helping to identify human remains.

"I really love the forensics part of it," she said. "I'm a history geek, too."

Oscar Rubio moved from California to Whitehall in seventh grade, enduring a big change in both climate and culture. But Rubio adjusted, focusing on his education. As he worked, he continually was awarded with good grades. He began to focus on his college career and enrolled in the postsecondary education program through Columbus State. There he completed a number of college courses, including calculus, English and chemistry.

For his entire senior year, he spent half of his day in downtown Columbus and half at Whitehall-Yearling.

The hard work paid off. He will attend OSU to major in computer science and engineering.

"I've been interested in technology for a long time," Rubio said. "I just didn't know it was the major I wanted."

Rubio is not sure what he wants to do with his major but believes OSU would afford him the opportunity to find out.

Ramon Weldemicael was a little surprised to hear he had been named as a valedictorian this year at Whitehall-Yearling. He knew he was close to the top but did not realize he had hit it.

Weldemicael emigrated to the United States from Eritrea, Africa, five years ago. When he came, he said, his "book English" was very good. But it was the conversational language that was much tougher to conquer.

"For the first two months, it was hard," he said. "I couldn't understand anything anyone was saying."