Westerville North High School's class of 2019 took an oath on Aug. 17 to live what is known as the "Warrior Way," to respect themselves, classmates, their school, family and community, as part of an annual Senior Yellow Rose Ceremony.
Principal Kurt Yancey said the 12-year tradition is something he brought from his former school, Briggs High School.
"We wanted seniors to know how important they are," he said.
The importance of the ritual has caught on, as more parents of seniors filled the school's gymnasium than ever before, Yancey said.
Yancey told the 345 seniors the roses signify strong feelings of pure joy, gladness, happiness and friendship.
"They are symbols of our appreciation of you," he said. "We know you'll take them to heart as you are now the senior leaders of this school. You may recall they also symbolize and embrace a new beginning. They're used to say, 'remember me.' "
Yancey said the actions seniors take as they push toward graduation at 6 p.m. May 25, 2019, will always be remembered.
"Also, please remember those roses you hold have no thorns," he said. "The thorns represented the obstacles you will face throughout this year and in life thereafter. We took them from the roses as a symbol of our confidence in your ability to do whatever it takes to overcome those obstacles that you may face."
Assistant Principal Stephanie McGeorge led the class in taking the oath.
"The oath symbolizes the dedication and hard work you've shown throughout the years at Westerville North," she said. "This is the start to your commitment to graduate in less than a year."
She reminded students that oaths, pledges and vows aren't something to be taken lightly.
"They're done at times when people are committed to what their character stands for," McGeorge said. "Your character is the number one thing you can make or break throughout your life.
"Take the words you're about to say seriously," she urged students.
The students agreed to live their lives the Warrior Way and also promised to be leaders by encouraging all students at North to live to the same standard in an effort to be a united Warrior nation. Lastly, the seniors committed to doing everything in their power to graduate with their class in May.
Senior class officer Emma Best said the ceremony sets the tone for the end goal.
"It's an honor to be recognized at the beginning of the year," she said. "It's a symbol of our high school career. It's a cool thing we get to be a part of."
Senior class officer Nick Martz said the ceremony is a valued tradition that freshmen, sophomores and juniors watch every year.
"A lot of the seniors today will recognize they're part of something really special," he said.
Best and Martz spoke to their classmates during the ceremony, as did class officers Ryan Crowley, Caden Crist and Erica Mobley.
Jason Mitchell, father of senior Ethan Mitchell, said he thought the ceremony was great.
"It was kind of cool, very nice," he said.
Mitchell said North didn't have the rose ceremony when he graduated from the school in 1994.
"As you move on from this ceremony with these roses, I encourage you to stand together as the leaders of one Warrior family and ensure that your example will help us achieve success," Yancey said.
"Be relentless, encourage oneness and strive for success and be excellent in all that you do."