Gahanna Lincoln High School seniors hope to take "One Step at A Time but Always Forward," the class motto, following graduation ceremonies at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 25, at the Jerome Schottenstein Center, 555 Borror Drive in Columbus.
Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Superintendent Steve Barrett said he's proud of the class of 548.
"They are exceptional students from diverse backgrounds and are well prepared for what lies ahead," he said. "Our seniors are incredibly talented and have excelled in many ways during their time at GLHS.
"I have enjoyed watching the class of 2019 compete and perform on the athletic field, in concerts and plays, and in academic competitions. We hope they remember their time at Gahanna-Lincoln High School fondly and come back to visit."
Principal Jessica Slocum said the senior class has been a remarkable one.
"It has been a privilege and honor to serve as their principal," she said. "Congratulations to the class of 2019 for their many accomplishments and for being exceptional leaders in and outside the classroom."
Senior Bronte Johnson said she has been with the class from the start, having attended Blacklick Elementary School, Gahanna Middle School South and then the high school.
"Over the course of several years, I have had the opportunity to meet and get to know so many kids," she said. "Together, we have all suffered through embarrassing failures, celebrated memorable moments and witnessed heartwarming achievements."
What she thinks is especially unique about this class is its closeness.
"Over the course of our educational career, the class of 2019 has managed to develop a bond so unique, so personal, that no other class even comes close," she said. "Having been so heavily involved in extracurriculars and sports, I have been able to witness almost every aspect of our school. I have observed, interacted with, and experienced each unique niche of Gahanna Lincoln High School."
As a class leader, Johnson said, she has been active in numerous clubs such as Link Crew, Multicultural Club, National Honor's Society and Anime Club.
She also has been involved in track and field, women's golf, and as a member of the speech and debate team.
"Regardless of wherever I was at any moment of time, this bond and overwhelming sense of belonging amongst us all had never faded," she said. "A few years ago, however, this bond was tested when we had experienced significant loss within our school. These hard times left many of us in pain, grieving or hurting."
Johnson said she was able to watch as the students came together as a class to heal one another.
"Together, we have been able to overcome obstacles, suffer through hardships and support one another in times of need," she added. "What I think makes the Class of 2019 stand out is simply how much we care for one another. How diverse we are, and although it sounds cliche, how we have grown as a family."
Slocum said the members of the class will be missed.
"We wish them all the best in their future endeavors," she said.
At Columbus Academy, 99 seniors are expected to graduate at 9 a.m. June 6 at the school, 4300 Cherry Bottom Road in Gahanna, said Bob Lee, director of communications and marketing for the private school.
Parking is available on any of the school's campus lots that morning, Lee said. No tickets are required for the event.
Robert L. Solomon II, assistant vice provost for Ohio State University Office of Diversity and Inclusion, will serve as the guest speaker at school's 106th commencement, Lee said.
Solomon was a member of the school's board of trustees from 2009 to 2015, and two of his children are alumni, Lee said.
Solomon said he was honored and humbled by the request to speak during commencement.
"We were an active part of the (Columbus Academy) family for nine years, which were among the most rewarding years of our children's education," he said. "Academy does an exceptional job of preparing our students to serve, lead, think critically and care about their world. I can think of no greater honor than to have contributed to the (Columbus Academy) mission and to have made friends for life among the parents, students, faculty, staff and administration who took that special journey along with me."
The school doesn't rank its students, so it doesn't have valedictorians, Lee said.
The graduating class includes 12 National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalists, he said.
Melissa Soderberg, head of school at Columbus Academy, said commencement will conclude a stellar year for the school, one in which students and faculty members achieved national and global recognition for their ideas and talents, excelled in both athletics and the arts and began facility projects that will enhance opportunities for students to realize their potential, among other accomplishments.
Columbus Academy's 2019 graduates will be missed for their multifaceted talents and contributions to the school, said Cory Izokaitis, head of upper school for Columbus Academy.
"They showed us time and time again what it meant to work hard and play hard, all while finding time to give back to their community," Izokaitis said. "We wish these young men and women well in the next chapter of their journey, and we cannot wait to hear back from them for years to come."
Most of the school's students are from New Albany, with Gahanna a close second.
According to school figures from January, 27.9% of the students come from New Albany. Other communities represented include Gahanna, 21.9%; Columbus, 7.6%; Westerville, 7.3%; Olentangy, 6.3%; Dublin, 5.4%; Bexley, 5%; Pickerington, 3%; Upper Arlington, 2.9%; and Worthington, 2.4%.
ThisWeek reporter Sarah Sole contributed to this story.