AURORA -- As each Aurora High 2017 graduate travels his or her own future path, there will be challenges ahead. How they meet those challenges will be the key to their success or failure.
At least one of the three senior speakers at the May 25 commencement ceremony made that point as 238 of them received their diplomas at Parkside Church on Pettibone Road in Bainbridge Township.
"I'm asking each of you to meet those challenges straight on with your heads held high and your hearts wide open," said class president Jenna Geier. "Have trust in the Aurora foundation; it won't fail you.
"Try to excel in everything you do and strive for excellence in every task, large or small. If each of you is able to do that, just imagine the effect that would have. The future is truly in our hands -- so go form your trail."
Graduate Donovan Boyle encouraged the class not to be afraid to dream big. "Find whatever you love," he said. "Follow your hearts. Do not follow money or awards or recognition, because if we do, we'll simply be wasting our time.
"Be unique, be inspirational, be creative and most importantly, be you. Though we'll be separated, we'll forever be united as Greenmen."
He added the class will produce future doctors, singers, lawyers, teachers, mechanics, engineers and "maybe even future Shark Tank contestants!"
"We are about to start over again," noted graduate speaker Purdita Irving, who came to Aurora in her junior year. "Each of us will face adversities. But it's then that we'll look upon the last 17 or 18 years and find the vigor to rise above those hurdles.
"The class of 2017 isn't just a group of people walking across a stage grabbing a diploma; we're the memories, good and bad, from kindergarten or even our junior year till now, that each of us will carry as we forge our way through the world."
She explained she has attended multiple schools throughout her life, "but it wasn't until I became a Greenman that I had witnessed such tenacious bonds as those within the class of 2017."
AHS Principal Paul Milcetich provided a few bits of information about the three speakers. He noted Irving has thrived academically and also played key roles in National Honor Society through service work, Science Olympiad and the American Red Cross.
"With her perspective and determination, Purdita has impressed students and staff alike, and made her mark in her limited time here," he said, adding she will attend Case Western Reserve University.
Milcetich said Boyle was a three-sport athlete, class officer and member of the Student Senate, "who exemplifies leadership and responsibility. His talents will serve him well as he moves on to Wake Forest to study biomedical engineering."
The principal said Geier has dealt with adversity by overcoming multiple surgeries to return to playing soccer. He said she was an integral voice on Student Senate and "her grit and talents will continue to serve her well as she moves on to Ohio State University."
Milcetich pointed out that this year's graduates have accepted $5.8 million in scholarship and grant money.
"These seniors are not only an extremely talented class, but perhaps the most decorated class to ever walk the halls at AHS," he said, outlining a number of accomplishments of the graduates.
Among them are:
Ian Doemling became AHS's first U.S. Presidential Scholar.
50 students designated summa cum laude (highest honors), 31 magna cum laude (high honors) and 25 cum laude (honors).
Eight National Merit commended scholars (Nadia Abass, Doemling, James Kristell, Samantha Marotts, Alexandra Mehallis, Gabrielle Risko, Tyler Thieding and Julia Weber) and two National Merit finalists (Colin Heath and Jared Ruehr). No other AHS class has hit double figures in this category.
In the seniors' four years, AHS has hit all-time highs on the ACT (Heath and Doemling had perfect scores).
Seventy-one graduates were in the National Honor Society and 94 earned the state of Ohio honors diploma.
Graduates took advantage of 20 Advanced Placement offerings and contributed to students sitting for roughly 915 tests this year, the highest in school history.
"I'd like to recognize the hard work of you [seniors] and your parents in graduating from one of the finest high schools in the nation," said Milcetich. To the parents, he said, "I commend you on your parenting skills; these young men and women have accomplished so much."
Milcetich also cited the dedication of the faculty, calling them "diligent, passionate, hard-working, caring, professional, knowledgeable and committed to our students."
In winding up his comments, Milcetich said, "Class of 2017, the world awaits you and your contributions to our society. We are proud of every one of you, we will miss you and we look forward to a future led by you.
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