The future for Columbus North High School graduates is in their hands.

That was one of the key messages delivered by North Principal David Clark during Saturday afternoon’s commencement ceremony in the high school gymnasium, where friends and family members looked on as the school recognized 426 graduates.

“I’m proud to see where you are today,” Clark said. “Wherever you go, you will be held together by a common bond.”

He also made a reference to an incident that prompted the closure of the Judson Erne Auditorium due to a fire at the school late last year, reminding the students that such disruptions shouldn’t get to them.

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“Don’t let a little fire in the morning ruin your entire day,” Clark said.

Clark also urged the graduating seniors to persevere toward goals and in the face of challenges.

“We at Columbus North High School want you to become something,” Clark said. “Never give up.”

Valedictorian Ujwala Pamidimukkala, who plans to study molecular biology and chemistry at Vanderbilt  University, reflected on the last four years of her high school career, telling those in attendance that looking at the past can lead to successful futures and good things. For example, thinking about overcoming struggles with learning and other challenges can provide confidence for future success.

“Graduation is a beginning, not an end,” Pamidimukkala said.

Salutatorian Jennifer Gutman told her fellow classmates that they have all had great moments in their lives as they end their high school careers and congratulated them. She will be attending Purdue University this fall to study biomedical engineering.

Classmate Shelby Heavrin gathered with her parents, Eric and Joanne, outside the school taking photos as she celebrated her high school graduation and credited them in helping her, especially as she struggled with math and government her senior year.

Graduation was a particularly special moment for Peyton Rhodes, who said her mother died when she was 9.

“I really got to feel her spirit today and spend it today with my family and my little cousin,” Rhodes said.

She is headed to Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, but hasn’t decided on a major yet. Rhodes was joined by her dad, James Rhodes, who said he was proud of his daughter for her accomplishments.

Although his daughter faces a new set of challenges as she moves ahead in life, James Rhodes expressed confidence she would do well.

“I think she’s really capable,” Rhodes said.

About the class

Graduates: 426

Valedictorian: Ujwala Pamidimukkala

Salutatorian: Jennifer Gutman

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com