On Sunday, May 26, 72 Grandview Heights High School seniors will enter the auditorium as students and leave as graduates.
Members of the class of 2019 will receive their diplomas during a commencement ceremony set for 3 p.m. at the school, 1587 W. Third Ave.
A baccalaureate ceremony will be held at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 25, at First Community Church, 1320 Cambridge Blvd. in Marble Cliff.
What stands out most about this year's graduates are their dedication and work ethic, senior class adviser Kevin Richards said.
"It's a very hardworking class and that's demonstrated by their academic success and the amount of scholarship offers they received," he said.
Although the group is smaller than other recent senior classes, the members of the class of 2019 who qualified to participate April 26 in the school's annual Academic Signing Day earned a record-breaking $10,045,704 in scholarship offers.
"It's quite a standard that they have set," Richards said. "I look forward to seeing where they will end up five or 10 years from now."
The senior class already is going places, with students choosing a wider variety of schools in a wider range of locales than ever before, he said.
"We have students who will be going to school as far away as Montana," Richards said. "They aren't just choosing to go to Ohio schools or colleges closer to home."
The keynote speaker at graduation will be a familiar face to the seniors: Ken Chaffin, the former Grandview High School principal who left in July to become principal at Early College High School in the Marysville Exempted Village School District, where he and his family live.
"Kenny had such an impact on this class during their first three years at the high school, and there were many kids who really felt it was important that they get to hear from him one more time as they're leaving Grandview," Richards said. "Kenny was so nice to agree to come back and speak at the graduation ceremony."
Seniors Sophie Beacom and Sam Speaks also will address students at the ceremony.
The student speakers are selected by a committee of teachers that reviews drafts of speeches submitted by seniors, Richards said.
The class of 2019 ended its last day of high school May 15 by participating in the annual senior walk.
The students visited Stevenson Elementary School and Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School and then returned to the high school to walk the halls one final time before parading down Fairview Avenue and crossing Third Avenue for a celebration at Bobcat Field.
"It's a sentimental experience for a lot of the students," Richards said. "Many of the teachers they had at Stevenson and at the middle school are still there, so it gives them a chance to see them again before they graduate."
To end the senior walk, seniors formed a circle at the stadium and counted down before releasing balloons. Hugs and lots of photos followed.
"It feels pretty good to get to this day," senior Leighton Williams said. "People are really excited to be moving on to college and entering a new part of life, but it's also a little sad to be saying goodbye to each other."
"I feel like this is a celebration of the start of something, not the end of something," senior Sofia Longoria said. "Still, it's kind of a bittersweet day."
Williams said he enjoyed the senior walk, especially the chance to visit the elementary school and middle school.
"It meant a lot to return to the school where we got our education over the last 12 years," he said. "The senior walk is a really special way to end our last day."
Longoria, who will enroll at Ohio University , said she feels fortunate to have attended school in Grandview.
When Richards told the seniors during the senior walk that their high school teachers would always be there for them, she said, she knew he was speaking the truth.
"I know he means what he said because our teachers were always there for us all through high school," she said. "You couldn't have that at a big school."
The senior class is a close-knit group, senior Whitney Schaefer said.
"We're such a small class that everybody knows each other," she said.
"It allows you to feel a real connection to your classmates and the community," said Schaefer, who will study business at Miami University.
Although May 15 was his last day of high school, "it still doesn't feel real," said Williams, who will attend Ohio State University with a major in environmental science and a minor in aviation.
"I don't think it's really going to dawn on me that I'm out of high school until I'm walking across the stage and take my diploma," he said.