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[caption width="250" caption=" Olentangy Orange senior Rachel Chernos waits expectantly before walking into the graduation ceremony at the Celeste Center at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. (Gazette | Melissa Mackey) "][/caption]

MELISSA MACKEY

Staff Writer

The third graduating class of Olentangy Orange High School is 325 members strong, the largest yet, and the first to have its members attend all four years at the school, a sentiment often repeated Saturday at the Celeste Center at the Ohio State Fairgrounds.

Members of the senior class cabinet, Angelina Cugini, Lindsay Spragg and Sydney Yochum reminisced about Aug. 24, 2008, the first day the students walked into their new school, destined to be the “pioneers of all four years.”

The Olentangy Orange class of 2012 started a number of new clubs, including the Multicultural and Ping Pong clubs, as well as Invisible Children and garnered the most number of accolades during the senior awards night, truly making them the Pioneers, they said.

In his address to the students, superintendent Wade Lucas spoke about how in just four years, the school has rose to the ranks of the other Olentangy district schools, being recognized by U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek and the Washington Post as one of the top high schools in Central Ohio, the state and the nation.

Over four years, the Olentangy Orange senior class also logged 6,200 community service hours. About 90 percent of the class will go on to college and 2 to 3 percent will go into the military, Lucas said.

Orange’s graduating class celebrates many successes, including 37 graduating Summa Cum Laude, 33 Magna Cum Laude and 23 Cum Laude students. Additionally, 86 students received the Presidential Award for Educational Excellence, 106 received the State of Ohio Honors Diploma, 150 received the State of Ohio Award of Merit and 83 members were in the National Honor Society.

The class valedictorians, Joseph Lee, Mariah Hazlett and Daniel Meyung, delivered their commencement speech together, as three different, but unified members of the class of 2012.

Lee told a story about how he is known for being “fashionably late,” but most infamous for making his class late for its senior trip ride home from Cedar Point.

“Let’s just say that a slushee and the Wicked Twister didn’t mix too well,” Lee said.

In being late, he also made Orange assistant principal Michelle Blackley mad, and she threatened to make him walk home if not back at the bus in four minutes, he said. After the incident, Blackley asked that Lee bring a signed note to ensure that he would arrive to graduation on time, or she would pick him up at 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

“Needless to say, my parents have been very bored the last two and a half hours,” Lee said.

Meyung, known to the class as the Pioneer Pete mascot, talked about how the class initially hated the school mascot, a coon skin-capped, fur-fringed suit-wearing pioneer. The class expressed their frustration through their instant messenger and social media accounts, even petitioning the administration to change the mascot.

But, as they settled into school, they truly became the pioneers, blazing a trail for the students to come up in the ranks to follow, Hazlett said.

The class also did this with a positive attitude, giving their all in various sports and clubs and with a tremendous amount of pride, she said.

“Pride is definitely integral part of OOHS,” Hazlett said.

The commencement ceremony also offered some of the students’ musical talents. The Choraliers and The Varsity Singers performed “Seasons of Love” from Rent and Abbey Engelbach and Sarah Fulton sang “For Good” from Wicked.

The students also selected the Olentangy Orange-based band Evadell Drive to perform its new song “We Made It” at the ceremony.

A piece of the students’ solidarity will remain at the high school through a senior gift, a customized bronze bust of the school’s mascot, Pioneer Pete.

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