Newest grads

The 2019 graduates include Colton Wang, from left, Ruth Zampogna and Brendan Wang.

Solon High School Principal Erin Short recalls asking the freshmen’s parents in January 2015 to envision what their child could accomplish in 525,600 minutes – or one year.

“Fast forward to today – 4 1/2 years later – and take notice of the amazing individuals sitting on this stage,” Ms. Short said at commencement May 30 at the State Theatre in Cleveland.

Among the class’s numerous achievements, Ms. Short said, 39 students were honored by the National Merit Scholarship Corp., “one of the most in the state and among the top high schools in the nation.” These included 24 National Merit finalists and 15 commended scholars.

Various members of the class earned a total of eight perfect scores on the ACT or SAT.

“While it is considered an honor for any school to have even one student named a United States Presidential Scholar candidate, this class had three students so recognized.”

Ms. Short said that high achievement by the senior class’s 396 graduates contributed to many other accolades for the school and district: The high school is again among the top schools in Ohio and the nation, according to the 2019 U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools rankings. SHS was ranked No. 1 in Northeast Ohio. The high school is also on U.S. News’ list of best STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) schools in the country.

She added, the Solon District earned the state of Ohio’s No. 1 report card for student achievement. It was designated the second highest in America for 2019 by Niche.com.

“Finally, just this week the Solon City Schools were named the No. 1 school district in Northeast Ohio by Cleveland Magazine for an unprecedented 11th consecutive year.”

The class’s other accomplishments in academics, athletics and the arts abounded, she said. “Five of our academic teams – Academic Challenge, Chess, Future Problem Solvers, Science Olympiad and Speech and Debate – qualified for their national tournaments.” Members of the class of 2019 led the Science Olympiad team to its ranking as first in the state and second in the nation. Individuals won state titles in chess and future problem solving.

In the arts and humanities, senior members of drama club concluded four years on stage with performances of “The Scarlet Letter” and “Beauty and the Beast,” earning best musical honors at Playhouse Square’s John and Patricia Chapman Dazzle Awards. The Sinfonia Orchestra earned the highest rating of straight ones at the state competition and the show choir Music in Motion won numerous collective and individual awards at competitions. Individual seniors won first place honors at the Ohio Scholastic Media competition and awards in art at the state and national levels.

In athletics, members of the class of 2019 were a part of nine teams that won league championships: girls tennis, girls golf, boys cross country, boys soccer, girls basketball, boys swimming, boys tennis, boys track and baseball. The softball and boys and girls track teams won district championships. Both the boys and girls cross country teams qualified for their regional tournament, the boys track team won a regional championship and the volleyball team qualified for the state tournament.

“Individual seniors have competed at the state level in bowling, boys and girls cross country, girls tennis, swimming and diving, boys and girls indoor and outdoor track and wrestling,” Ms. Short said. Sixteen members of the class received Division I or II athletic scholarships.

Commencement speakers J. R. Heckman and Lea Kim were chosen by audition.

Mr. Heckman is a three-time winner of the Dazzle Award for best actor in Northeast Ohio. In 2018, he was one of four male finalists at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (Jimmy Awards) on Broadway and he will be competing again this summer. Mr. Heckman is an eight-time best male soloist award recipient at national and state show choir competitions. He will pursue a degree in fine arts in musical theater at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in New York City.

A National Merit finalist, Ms. Kim was president and concertmaster of Solon High School’s Sinfonia Orchestra and a violinist in the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra. She is the top winner of the Better Business Bureau’s Integrity Scholarship, a member of the 2019 team which won second place at the National Science Olympiad competition and an international champion in scenario writing at the 2018 International Future Problem Solving conference. Ms. Kim will double major in chemistry and music at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

As students go forth to pursue their dreams, Mr. Heckman reminded them to give back, serve others, count their blessings and not lose sight of who they are. “Class of 2019, I’m counting on you to do amazing things, make your mark in life, change the world.”

“We’re the generation of Parkland, Tamir Rice and countless tragedies,” Ms. Kim said. “We’ve been written off as the ‘social-media’ generation, but that’s exactly where our strength lies. With the advent of social media, our voices are more important than ever.”

Ms. Short concluded her presentation with some “Throwback Thursday” words of wisdom from three of her favorite artists from an era the graduating seniors’ “parents and I remember quite well” – the 1980s and 90s. She quoted the messages “Beauty is where you find it” by Madonna; “You should never take more than you give” by Elton John; and “You had the time, you had the power, you’ve yet to have your finest hour” by Queen.

She told graduates, “Your challenge now is to push your own limits, find your passion, chase your dreams, believe enough in something to stand for it, speak your truth.”

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