By Matthew Kent
After spending their high school careers in project-based learning, graduating Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech High School seniors were told to share their 21st century skills with the world.
The class of 68 students graduated Friday night in ceremonies at the Columbus East High School gym, where family and friends celebrated with them.
Before receiving their diplomas, CSA New Tech Principal Mike Reed announced the class of 2018 contributed 4,625 hours of community service and earned 490 college credits before their graduation. The students earned $1.5 million in college scholarships.
The students completed hundreds of projects during their time at CSA New Tech and hosted thousands of visitors from around the world — including those from Japan and Germany.
Some senior projects from the Class of 2018 were high impact, including one by graduate Erin Bailey, who organized the city’s first Columbus Pride Festival in April.
“All of you have demonstrated great perseverance,” Reed said to the class.
The school does not have a valedictorian and salutatorian, but two student speakers were chosen to address the class.
James Adkins was selected as student speaker with fellow student Jacqueline Cowan.
Adkins challenged his classmates with a question to consider.
“Ask yourself what you want to do when you grow up,” Adkins said.
He encouraged his classmates to pursue their own path, whether that involved higher education or entering military branches such as the U.S. Air Force.
“If you want to work in a lab, work in a lab,” he said. “Don’t settle, set lots of goals.”
Students at CSA New Tech have also been able to overcome many challenges throughout their high school careers with resilience, said Megan Shaff, school counselor. However, those challenges haven’t deterred them, she said.
“You’ve worked together with love and understanding,” Shaff said.
Shaff reminded the graduating seniors that they are leaving a legacy behind at CSA New Tech for others to follow.
“Go forth and be the revolution,” she said.
However, that revolution will take a collective effort, Cowan told her classmates.
“We may be revolutionary, but it takes every single one of us to make a revolution happen,” Cowan said. “I can’t wait to see where life takes us all.”
The commencement ceremony was also an opportunity for many graduates to reflect on the last four years while looking ahead to the future.
Katherine Quillen was full of smiles as she joined her fellow classmates, many of them surrounded by friends and family members who gathered in the auxiliary gymnasium following the ceremony.
Quillen said her interactions with her fellow students and staff at CSA New Tech stood out as what she most enjoyed during her time at the school. She plans to attend Ball State University this fall to study nursing and had a final message for her classmates.
“I just wish them the best,” Quillen said. “It’s been the absolute (best).”
Bailey, who plans to attend the Herron School of Art & Design at IUPUI this fall, also said goodbye to those around her.
“Thanks for all the memories,” she said.