Graduation ceremonies for the South-Western City School District’s four high schools will commence in the morning and last until evening Saturday, June 2.
All will be held at the Celeste Center, 717 E. 17th Ave., at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds in Columbus.
Franklin Heights High School’s graduation will take place at 9 a.m., followed by Central Crossing High School at noon, Westland High School at 3:30 p.m. and Grove City High School at 6:30 p.m.
A total of 440 seniors are expected to participate in Grove City High School’s ceremony.
“They are a very driven class, a group of students who are driven to succeed,” said Rachel Rendle, who serves as senior class adviser with Heather Sayre.
“Our seniors have found many ways to reach levels of success academically and outside of school,” Rendle said.
The class of 2018 earned $15.1 million in scholarship offers, she said.
“They continue to impress me with their self-discipline and maturity,” Rendle said. “They are a very creative, positive, outgoing and caring group of students.
“Based on the contributions they have already made here at Grove City High School, our community will be better as these students continue to be a part of our world here and in the bigger world outside Grove City. I can’t wait to see all they are going to achieve.”
Student speakers at commencement will include valedictorian Rebecca Roffe, salutatorian Avery Imes and senior class president Ezekiel Cajigal.
The event will feature a performance of the song “Say Goodbye,” written by Scott Alan. The song was selected by senior choir members “as a song sung to and from the senior class,” Rendle said.
A total of 377 Westland High School students are expected to receive their diplomas, guidance counselor Christina Shore said.
Students have reported earning more than $2.5 million in scholarship offers, although the actual number is likely higher, she said.
“Our senior class officers have done a great job leading their classmates,” Shore said. “I think their hallmark is turning potentially negative situations into clear positives.”
Last year, when this year’s senior class was juniors, “we had some tensions that were developing,” she said. “Just little disputes that can arise between students at a school.”
The students came up with the idea of creating a “chain” of written positive messages, Shore said.
“They were just words or phrases that spotlighted positive things about Westland High School,” she said. “I think it gave students a chance to reflect on all the good things at our school. It helped diffuse any of the tensions.”
When a Westland tradition of seniors decorating a wall inside the school was canceled, the senior class came up with an alternative idea.
“As they came in as freshmen, the students signed a banner pledging that they would see things through and graduate,” Shore said. “This year, they decided to sign the other side of the banner as outgoing seniors, so there’s a signature they made as freshmen and messages they’ve made as they prepare to leave.
“I think their idea is a better one and, hopefully, that will become a new tradition,” she said.
As of last week, three Westland students still had the chance to be named valedictorian and salutatorian for the class of 2018.
“The honor is based on weighted grade-point average, and we won’t know the final GPAs until all of the senior exams scores come in,” guidance counselor Erin Hibbitt said.
Central Crossing High School will present diplomas to 382 students.
The senior class has earned $9,719,648 in scholarship offers, said Kristy Halleck, who serves as senior class adviser and graduation coordinator with Christa Russell.
“They are really a brilliant class,” she said. “So many of them have received scholarship offers from multiple schools. Some of our students will be playing sports for the colleges they’ll attend. We have a lot of high achievers in this year’s senior class.”
The valedictorian will be Stephanie Wilhelm, whose final weighted grade-point average will be above 5.0, Halleck said.
The salutatorian is still to be determined.
“We have four students who are all in the range where any could be our salutatorian,” Halleck said. “It’s going to come down to the results of their final exams.”
While it is impressive that so many students remain in the running for the honor, “it’s also nerve-wracking for us, because we can’t put the name of the salutatorian in our graduation program,” she said.
Student speakers at the ceremony will be senior class president Samantha Poor and Ashlee Hagenbarth.
The choir has selected Sarah Quartel’s “Wide Open Spaces” as the senior song to perform at the commencement.
Franklin Heights High School is slated to have 275 students walk across the stage at graduation, and that number is higher than usual, principal Tim Donahue said.
Six FHHS juniors have earned enough credits to graduate a year early, Donahue said. And several students already have earned enough credits through the College Credit Plus program that they will enter college as sophomores, he said.
“So many of our students have taken advantage of the advanced academic opportunities they have been offered in our district,” Donahue said. “They’ve accepted and stepped up to meet that challenge.”
FHHS students have received about $3.5 million in scholarship offers, he said.
The class valedictorian is Josephine Hammer, who will study engineering at Ohio State University. The salutatorian is Emily Moore, who will study engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
“Both of them have taken college courses in high school and will be entering college as sophomores,” Donahue said. “They are good representations of all this senior class has achieved.”
About 25 seniors applied to serve as student speakers at commencement.
“The students have to write and deliver a speech to a panel of our teachers who will be making the choice of speakers,” Donahue said. “It’s quite a challenging audition process.”
Emmanuel Hunt will lead the Pledge of Allegiance, with Dallas Clouse and Omar Hassan providing the welcoming remarks.
Moore will speak, along with Hannah Blanchard and Bintou Fofana.
Chyna Deng will lead classmates in the turning of tassels.