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Columbia-area graduations, plus what was happening when the class of 2018 was born

Airport High School graduating senior Emily Ward walks the halls of Springdale Elementary, the school she attended, one last time last May. Last year was the first year Airport's graduating seniors returned to their elementary schools to walk the halls one final time.
Airport High School graduating senior Emily Ward walks the halls of Springdale Elementary, the school she attended, one last time last May. Last year was the first year Airport's graduating seniors returned to their elementary schools to walk the halls one final time. file photo

While thousands of well-wishers will flock to high school and college graduations in the next couple of weeks, many Columbians will want to avoid the happy chaos (not to mention traffic) that accompanies such a momentous occasion.

College graduations are mostly complete, but all of the local high schools have upcoming celebrations.

Here's a little bit about the graduating classes. Scroll down to see who's graduating, when and where.

Y2K babies finish high school

This year’s high school graduates entered the world in 1999 — just in time for Y2K, which was preceded by greatly exaggerated reports that the world would end — and 2000.

Here's what else was going on:

ENTERTAINMENT: Still looking 22, Barbie turned 40 in 1999. In 2000, Christina Aguilera won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, beating out Britney Spears, whose “Oops I Did it Again” album held the record for first-week sales at 1.3 million until Adele's "25" topped it with 3.3.8 million in 2015. Other hits of 2000 included "Bye, Bye, Bye" by NSYNC and Lee Ann Womack’s "I Hope You Dance."In 2000, after seven season on the air, the cast members of "Friends" inked a remarkable two-year deal for $750,000 per person per episode.

TECH: In 1999, the number of internet users worldwide reached 150 million; in January of this year, that number surpassed 4 billion. That year also marked the release of the first Bluetooth technology. Wireless networks allowed users to send out-of-network text messages, and texting took off; Americans sent about 35 texts per month. In 2000, Bill Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft, while AOL and Time Warner announced their merger, a deal valued at $350 billion. In May, the US government changed GPS regulations, making the mapping and tracking tool available to the public.

POLITICS AND PEOPLE: 1999 began with the introduction of the Euro, which rendered the Italian lira, French franc, German mark, Greek drachma and other Euro-zone currencies obsolete. Also in 1999, Nelson Mandela stepped down as president of South Africa, after just five years in office. In November 1999, 5-year-old Cuban refugee Elián González was found clinging to an inner tube 3 miles off the coast of Florida. His rescue sparked an international custody battle.

SPORTS: Trampoline, triathlon and taekwondo all made their debut at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. In winning the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews, Scotland, Tiger Woods became the youngest to complete the career Grand Slam of professional major championships. Lou Holtz, in his first year as USC’s head football coach, logged a 0-11 record for the 1999 season. Joe DiMaggio, the Yankees centerfielder who became a cultural icon (and was briefly married to Marilyn Monroe), died in 1999.

SOUTH CAROLINA AND COLUMBIA: Video poker came to an end in South Carolina when the state Supreme Court ruled in October 1999 that the machines needed to be unplugged by June 2000. The Confederate flag was moved from atop the State House to a Confederate Soldiers Monument on the State House grounds in 2000. Fifteen years later, it was completely removed from the grounds. Although she was not the first woman accepted at the Citadel, Nancy Mace, class of 1999, was the first woman to graduate. The H.L. Hunley, a Confederate submarine that sank in 1864, was raised in 2000 from its resting place just off Charleston. The Riverbanks Society launched a capital campaign that helped fund the Birdhouse at Riverbanks and the Ndoki Forest habitat for gorillas, elephants and meerkats.

The last all-millennial college class

The majority of this spring's college graduates were born in late 1995 and 1996, making them the last all-millennial class. Since the Pew Research Center defines millennials as young adults born between 1981 and 1996, the class of 2019 will have both older millennials and younger post-millennials.

Here's what was happening when members of the college class of 2018 were born:

ENTERTAINMENT: Audiences first met Woody the cowboy and Buzz Lightyear in "Toy Story" and saw Robin Williams return from decades in the jungle in the original "Jumanji," both in December 1995. The TV show "Friends" was in its second season (the one where Rachel and Ross finally get together), and "Seinfeld" was in its penultimate season. Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 in September 1996. In late 1995 and 1996 (which, btw, Billboard calls the "best musical year of the '90s") we were listening to "Wannabe," the Spice Girls' debut single; "California Love" by Tupac Shakur, released just months before he died; "Ironic" and other songs by Alanis Morissette; and (sorry, but we couldn't not mention) "La Macarena" by Los del Rio.

TECH: Motorola released the StarTAC — the first flip phone — in January 1996. It would set you back $1,000. Dolly the Sheep, the first successfully cloned mammal, was born in July 1996. One of the first webmail providers, Hotmail launched July 4, 1996, encouraging users, "Be free from your internet service provider!" No AOL trial CDs in the mail for this crowd. A Slate article titled "The Unrecognizable Internet of 1996" says Americans with Internet access (not everyone had it) spent fewer than 30 minutes a month surfing the web.

POLITICS AND PEOPLE: Then-President Bill Clinton's ultimately successful re-election campaign against Republican Bob Dole and Reform candidate Ross Perot was heating up. Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson split in January, and Prince Charles and Princess Diana divorced in August 1996. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill married in October. Denzel Washington was People's Sexiest Man Alive. His films that year were "Courage Under Fire" and "The Preacher's Wife" co-starring Whitney Houston.

SPORTS: Atlanta hosted the XXVI Olympic Games, marred by a July 27 pipe bomb explosion in Centennial Olympic Park, which killed one spectator, induced a fatal heart attack in another, and injured 111. Playing at home, the South Carolina Gamecocks lost a football game 63-7 to the Florida Gators in November 1995. In November 1996 — during the season the Gators, playing under future Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, would win the National Championship — again beat South Carolina, but this time 52-25. In the 1996 game against South Carolina, Spurrier became Florida's winningest coach.

SOUTH CAROLINA AND COLUMBIA: The city of Columbia's website went live. Nonnah's and Miyo's Gourmet Group were founded. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott was elected in November 1996. (Check out this vintage campaign hat we found on eBay. ) The demolition of the old Belk department store at the corner of Main and Hampton streets went slightly awry, with a wall falling the wrong way. A car was damaged, but no one was hurt. The Columbia Museum of Art later relocated to the neighboring Macy's building, and the Belk site was redeveloped into what's now the TD Bank building.

Thursday, May 31

Swansea High School: 4 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Friday, June 1

Lexington High School: 8 a.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

White Knoll High School: Noon at Colonial Life Arena.

Gilbert High School: 4 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Batesburg-Leesville High School: 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium, 338 W. Columbia Ave., Batesburg-Leesville.

Saturday, June 2

River Bluff High School: 8 a.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Pelion High School: Noon at Colonial Life Arena.

Monday, June 4

Brookland-Cayce High School: 8 a.m. at Bearcat Stadium, 1300 State St., Cayce.

Westwood High School: 8 a.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Ridge View High School: Noon at Colonial Life Arena.

Spring Valley High School: 4 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Tuesday, June 5

Airport High School: 8 a.m. at Eagle Stadium, 1315 Boston Ave., West Columbia.

Blythewood High School: 8 a.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Richland Northeast High School: Noon at Colonial Life Arena.

C.A. Johnson High School: 4 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Wednesday, June 6

Eau Claire High School: 8 a.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

A.C. Flora High School: Noon at Colonial Life Arena.

Columbia High School: 4 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Thursday, June 7

Keenan High School: 8 a.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Lower Richland High School: Noon at Colonial Life Arena.

Dreher High School: 4 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Friday, June 8

Dutch Fork High School: 8 a.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Irmo High School: Noon at Colonial Life Arena.

Spring Hill High School: 4 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Saturday, June 9

Chapin High School: 8 a.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

Freelancer Lezlie Patterson contributed.

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