The members of the 2016 graduating class of Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech high school consider themselves revolutionaries.

As they reminisced at the Friday graduation ceremony about their time spent in the technology- and project-based learning high school — which is intentionally void of traditional school amenities, such as bells and lockers — the now-graduates said they know their high school experiences were unique.

And as CSA-New Tech principal Mike Reed lauded the record-breaking 92 graduates for their commitment to their school, studies and community — including the more than 4,000 volunteer hours they had collectively put in — he told them that their willingness to dive into the nontraditional curriculum had changed the face of education forever.

“Quite frankly, you’re responsible for promoting change in dozens of school districts across the nation,” Reed said.

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Karla Guerrero and Nathaniel Reed, who were chosen as the CSA-New Tech senior speakers in lieu of traditional valedictorian and salutatorian speakers, said the revolution of a CSA education was not only evident in the school’s unique curriculum, but also was evident in the lives of the students themselves.

Reed said he began his high school career as a student at Columbus East, where he said he made some new friends and did well in school, but still felt that something was missing.

At the suggestion of a relative, Reed entered CSA-New Tech during his sophomore year and found that the hands-on curriculum, which led him to projects such as building a boat and creating a real museum exhibit, entirely changed the way he viewed his education.

“Thank you for making my high school experience valuable,” he told his fellow classmates.

Looking back, Guerrero said she can also see a change in herself through her four years at New Tech as she learned to become more confident in the project-based learning curriculum and in her own abilities to thrive in the unique learning environment.

Although at times it was a painful learning experience, Guerrero said she knows that going forward in life, her time at CSA-New Tech will prove to be an indispensable asset to her future success.

“It was in the halls of CSA that I became who I am today,” she said.

CSA-New Tech Class of 2016

Graduates: 92

Speakers: Karla Guerrero, Lilly Scholarship winner, and Nathaniel Reed, Columbus East Top 10

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.