Schools return to traditional graduation ceremonies

Messenger photo by Jeff Pfeil
Graduates of West Jefferson High School’s Class of 2021 throw their caps in the air following commencement ceremonies on May 22.

(Posted June 2, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

This year’s high school graduation ceremonies returned to pre-pandemic normalcy, for the most part. Families and friends were allowed to gather for the ceremonies, and the need for virtual anything was nill.

Last year, restrictions on mass gatherings prevented area high schools from hosting traditional commencement ceremonies. School leaders had to devise ways for graduating seniors to pick up their diplomas individually. Solutions included assigned time slots and drive-up pickups. Virtual ceremonies–videos that compiled pre-recorded speeches, award announcements, and the like–also were part of the Class of 2020’s graduation experience.

West Jefferson

West Jefferson High School was the first Madison County school to hold commencement ceremonies this year. The event took place on May 22 at Kile Field. Students sat six feet apart, but otherwise it was a traditional graduation ceremony.

Of the 87 students in the class, 19 graduated with honors, 25 are members of the National Honor Society, and two are members of the National Technical Honor Society through Tolles Career & Technical Center.

The valedictorians and their college plans are: Emma Hostetler, The Ohio State University; Harley Johnson, Gannon University; Megan McClish, Cedarville University; Vanessa Peshko, Columbus State University; and Anya Piazza, The Ohio State University. This year’s salutatorian was Wesley Miller who is headed to Capital University.

This year’s outstanding Tolles student is Nicholas West.

The class officers are: Thomas Fuller, president; Taylor Fry, vice president; Gabrielle King, secretary; Megan McClish, treasurer; August Crawford, public relations; and Samantha Chaffin, historian.

The class flower is the sunflower. The class color is teal. The class chose “Just Blink” by Kenny Chesney as their song and “21 and DONE!” as their motto.


Madison-Plains High School’s commencement ceremony was held May 28 in the high school gymnasium. The district returned to its traditional ceremony while following health department guidelines.

Of the 75 students in the class, eight are graduating with honors and 12 are members of National Honor Society.

Rachel Weis, the valedictorian, plans to attend Kent State University to study architecture. Kenneth Shafer, the salutatorian, plans to attend The Ohio State University to study forensic science.

The class officers are: Alyson Petee, president; Hannah Dyer, vice president; Morgan Rowe, secretary; and Becky Grigsby, treasurer.

The class flower is the yellow rose, and the class colors are green and gold. The class motto is: “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground” by Theodore Roosevelt.


London High School’s commencement took place on May 30 at Bowlus Field. Students were limited to 10 tickets each for friends and family, and groups sat in family pods at the stadium. The district brought back a new tradition started last year: the senior parade which took place on May 27. The parade started at the high school, looped through downtown, then returned to the high school.

Of the 164 students in the class, 24 are graduating with honors and 32 are members of National Honor Society.

Luke Peart, the valedictorian, plans to attend The Ohio State University. Logan Minner, the salutatorian, plans to attend the University of Cincinnati.

Class officers are: Mia Comer, president; Brooke McSeveny, vice president; Raven Large, secretary; and Lindsay Logue, treasurer.

The class colors are black and red. The class song is “Graduation” by Vitamin C,a nd the motto is “It is what it is” by J.E. Lawrence.


Shekinah Christian School’s commencement ceremony took place on May 28 at Shiloh Mennonite Church. Each graduate was limited to 25 tickets for friends and family, but otherwise proceedings were back to normal as was possible, school officials say.

Of the four students in the class, three are graduating with honors.

The valedictorians are Brooke Cooley and Sydney Lyons. Cooley plans to babysit this summer, work in the fall, and do short-term mission work with Youth With A Mission next spring. Lyons plans to attend Columbus State Community College for two years then transfer to Liberty University to study wildlife biology.

Sophie Spires, the salutatorian, is taking a gap year. She hopes to find a job for the fall and spring and see what God has in store for her future.

The class officers are: Brooke Cooley, president; Sophie Spires, vice president; Hope Ferguson, secretary; and Sydney Lyons, treasurer. The class sponsor is Andreas Hershberger.

The class flower is a white garden lily, and the class colors are sage and lilac. The class chose “Friendship isn’t a big thing; it’s a million little things” as its quote. The class verse is: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” Romans 15:13.


Tolles Career & Technical Center held its certification ceremony for seniors on May 29 at Jonathan Alder High School’s Volunteer Field at Performance Stadium.

Of the 263 students in the class, 26 are receiving Lift awards and 20 are members of the National Technical Honor Society.

Keegan Barber and Trinity Heskett are this year’s outstanding students. Finalists were Victoria Cavallaro, Riley Scaff and Cuyler Whitt.

The student council officers are: Trinity Heskett, president; Emma Parker, vice president; Erin Littin, treasurer; and Victoria Sayre, historian.

Jonathan Alder High School’s valedictorians for the Class of 2021 are: (from left) Riley Woods, Dominic Gantz, Morgan Hicks, Zachary Huggins, Eva Boeckl, Olivia McCoy, Honour Lackey, Madilyn Davis, Mason Fields, Abigail Watkins, Eliza Watkins, Hope Shoemaker, Elaina Winslow and Matthew Schertzer.

Jonathan Alder

Jonathan Alder High School’s commencement ceremony took place on May 30 at Volunteer Field at Performance Stadium.

This was the first time the school district has held graduation outside at the new high school. Graduates’ names were displayed on the scoreboard as students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.

Of the 173 students in the class, 47 are graduating with honors and 51 are members of National Honor Society.

The valedictorians and their college plans are: Eva Boeckl, The Ohio State University; Madilyn (Maddie) Davis, Otterbein University; Mason Fields, Miami University; Dominic Gantz, University of Cincinnati; Morgan Hicks, University of Toledo; Zachary (Zach) Huggins, Miami University; Honour Lackey, The Ohio State University; Olivia McCoy, University of Cincinnati; Matthew (Matt) Schertzer, Columbus State Community College; Hope Shoemaker, missionary field work; Abigail Watkins, The Ohio State University; Eliza Watkins, The Ohio State University; and Riley Woods, The Ohio State University

The salutatorians and their college plans are: Nathan Clark, Bowling Green State University; Ann (Annie) Hirshberg, Wittenberg University; Avery Pierce, University of Findlay; Natalie Taylor, Miami University; and Jon Santini III, Bowling Green State University

The class officers are: Caleb Keene, president; Jack Kinsey, vice president; Natalie Taylor, secretary; and Amber Little, treasurer.

The class chose the white rose as their flower and red and black as their colors. Their motto is: “Take the world as you find it but leave it as a better place.”

Jonathan Alder High School’s salutatorians for the Class of 2021 are: (from left) Nathan Clark, Ann Hirshberg, Natalie Taylor, Avery Pierce and Jon Santini.


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