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Graduating Warriors excel in the midst of adversity

As this school year comes to a close, we are celebrating WC’s Class of 2021 and reflecting on what distinguishes this group of 87 graduates. This class has certainly had its share of challenges and heartbreaks. It would be difficult to discuss this school year without recognizing the over-arching context of COVID-19 that has affected so many aspects of life and school. This year’s seniors share in no uncertain terms how negatively their final year of school has been impacted by the global pandemic.

“COVID took away a lot of what senior year should have been.”

“COVID has really been a damper on my senior experience.”

“Senior year has sadly not been what I expected.”

“It made the year feel really long.”

Masks, physical distancing, limited social engagements, and cancelled school traditions have all marked this year of school. Most notably, this year’s seniors did not get to take part in the Senior Capstone experience in the Dominican Republic. To be sure, this has been a year unlike what anyone expected. At the same time, WC’s graduating seniors express gratitude for the administration’s commitment to in-person learning when so many other schools were opting for online-only or hybrid models of instruction. They are quick to recognize the blessing of keeping some traditional, fun aspects of the senior Warrior experience. Members of the Class of 2021 also acknowledge ways that their unexpected senior year is leaving a positive, lasting impression.

“I haven’t really been able to do all the things I expected like going to games and cheering in the student section, fall event, etc., but I have learned more about who I am.”

“I feel like I missed out on a lot, but this year still has been memorable. I learned that relationships are extremely important.”

“I’ve come to appreciate the time I can spend with my friends.”

“Through this pandemic, I’ve learned to notice the little things, to appreciate the small talks I can have in the hallways, and to truly cherish each and every moment.”

“I’ve learned to make the most out of every opportunity because nothing is certain.”

In the midst of navigating the final year of high school during a global pandemic, the WC community grieved a very personal loss—the death of beloved English teacher Mr. Al Iten. The Class of 2021 felt this loss in a particularly pronounced way as so many of the students were taking his senior English class as his health declined in the fall, as he received a cancer diagnosis, and as he passed away in January of this year. When asked what aspect of WC has made the single greatest impact on their lives, student after student speaks of how Mr. Iten’s influence.

“Mr. Iten taught me what it looks like to love Jesus wholeheartedly.”

“Mr. Iten- his dedication to the Bible was inspiring, and His heart for others motivates me to love others better.”

“My time with Mr. Iten–he was the godliest man that I have ever met.”

What sets WC’s Class of 2021 apart is that through the pain, loss, and uncertainty of their senior year, they have risen out of those ashes with a marked resilience and tenacity. It would have been easy–even understandable—to shrink back or relent from their pursuits in the face of the pain, loss, and challenges of the year. But that is not what this group of seniors has done. Rather than being overcome by adversity, this graduating class has risen to new heights of leadership and achievement. These seniors have not let anything stop them from pursuing the call on their lives and excelling in academics, the arts, and athletics.

Pursuing their Callings

Worthington Christian is a college preparatory school, but the WC experience and end result is not limited to college admissions and routinely moving on to the next step in academics or a career—there’s a much broader vision for our graduates. One part of that vision is that WC graduates would be people that see their work as a part of a bigger calling, people that understand that work is noble and a vocation is an expression of God’s image in people and a tangible expression of the calling of God to form and to fill the world. Children are so often asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This line of questioning only intensifies with age, coming to a crescendo at the end of high school with more specific questions like “Where are you going to college?” and “What major are you declaring?”

In the 2014 school year, the Class of 2021 was in fifth grade. They were asked that very question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Their pictures and responses were shared in the elementary school yearbook. We caught up with some of these students now that they are graduating to see how they answer that same question. It’s neat to see a number of seniors who have the exact same dream now that they did as fifth-graders. It’s also inspiring to hear how many of the seniors’ dreams have changed, and the ways God has used WC to shape them into who they are becoming. Make sure to check out their side-by-side pictures and read about their future plans here.

Excelling in Academics

Curricular rigor and fantastic faculty make WC’s academics stand out, and this year’s graduating class is proof of that. While average standardized test scores (the SAT/ACT) are one typical way of measuring how bright our students are, this year has changed the prevalence and importance of these assessments now that many colleges and universities have transitioned to test-optional admissions. Rather than focusing on a single test score or identifying students’ abilities by one number, higher education institutions are taking a closer look at how well-rounded students are. Factors like community involvement and service, letters of recommendation, and the diversity and rigor of coursework completed have taken on new importance. With this in mind, WC’s Class of 2021 has received between $3.3-3.4 million in college scholarship offers, being recognized for their outstanding achievement.

WC continues to expand its academic offerings, providing a wide range of experiences for students. One such endeavor is a research co-op established with The Ohio State University under the direction of WC science teacher Kelly Mikhail. Two seniors spent this year conducting research with an OSU lab. Thirteen seniors participated in Internship Academy, gaining real-world experience in fields of interest to them. Business teacher Nick Johnson reports that this number would have been even higher if not for COVID’s interference. These are just two examples of so many academic experiences available to and successfully completed by our graduating seniors.

Excelling in the Arts

At a time when many schools were limited in what their choral, instrumental, and theatre departments could do, WC has pushed forward and continued its tradition of excellence in the arts, and the graduating seniors involved in these programs led the way.

Following careful guidelines, WC’s choir and band programs were able to hold live concerts for Christmas and in the spring. Those who were not able to attend these performances in person were able to enjoy them via livestream thanks to the hard work and commitment of so many—the broadcast team, music teachers, and school administration.

WC’s music students were still able to compete in the Ohio Music Education Association’s annual choir and instrumental competitions, this year held virtually. As in years past, our students received many superior ratings for their performances.

Eight of this year’s 87 graduating seniors were involved in the theatre department this year. This group of students collectively decided that they wanted to move forward with theatre this year in spite of the challenges they would face. For the first time in school history, the theatre department produced four musicals this year. Director David O’Roark speaks of the commitment his students, especially the seniors, had to making this possible. Another first in the arts this year was the department receiving two award nominations from the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA). Senior Tucker O’Roark has been recognized for his outstanding performance in WC’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” receiving a nomination for “Best Actor in a Leading Role.”

Excelling in Athletics

One of the most measurable ways that the Class of 2021 has excelled this year is in the area of athletics. This year alone, 57 seniors participated in a school sport, representing 65% of the entire class. Athletic Director Kevin Weakley speaks of the commitment and leadership of these senior athletes in their respective sports—the results of which have been a banner year in Warrior athletics. Six of WC’s athletic teams have claimed league championships this year. Twelve (out of 15 total!) teams placed in the top three or better in the conference. Six of our senior athletes have won “Player of the Year” in the conference. One of the most astounding athletic stats for WC’s Class of 2021 is that 20 of this year’s seniors have signed commitments to compete in collegiate sports. That is 22% of the total class, compared the typical WC and national average of 3-4% of high school athletes advancing to the collegiate level.

True Warriors

The graduating seniors have faced numerous challenges this year, and they have overcome them through their academic, artistic, and athletic accomplishments. Undergirding this reality, though, is a much deeper purpose and identity rooted in Christ. Upper School teacher Adam Heath (WC ’00) has the unique opportunity to teach every single senior in his senior Bible classes. He has taught many seniors and observed many graduating classes from this school. Of the Class of 2021, Heath notes that this group of students has been exceptional in leading the school in worship. The worship teams that lead the Upper School student body in chapel weekly are lead by seniors, and Heath explains that this group of seniors stand out in their authenticity, humility, and ability to lead their peers. This is an essential part of what it means to be a Warrior for Christ—not just acquiring knowledge, refining talents, and discovering calling—but doing all of these things with Christ as the center of our lives. The seniors sum up this reality best in their own words when asked “What does it mean to be a Warrior?”

“To show Jesus in everything we do, and to be in community with others.”

“To be a part of a community that is fiercely passionate about god, sports, education, and relationships.”

“It means that I am showing God through every aspect in my school life through academics sports and after school activities.”

“To be a Warrior is to reflect God and the character of God in your everyday life. When competing, when learning, when interacting with those around you, and even when it’s hardest to be kind and to love God and love others.”

Class of 2021, we are proud of you and excited for your futures. Go and do great things!

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