Taking a page from the Class of 2004, Harlem High School graduates placed a stone into a vase as they walked across the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center stage Saturday to receive their diplomas.
Harlem High School graduate Wesley Story Jr. gets a hug from his father, Wesley Story Sr., and sister Kelsey Story after graduation Saturday.
A year ago, Harlem's seniors did the same to honor retiring Principal Barry Hemphill's last graduating class. On Saturday, the 2005 class did so to honor Alan Griffin's first graduating class as principal of Harlem High.
"I'm really proud that this is my first graduating class," Griffin said. "They are a great bunch of kids."
Griffin served as an assistant principal at Harlem High for 11 years before taking over for Hemphill last year. He said he didn't know about the vase of stones until the day before graduation.
"I'm going to keep it in my office," he said.
All of Columbia County's public high schools graduated their seniors Saturday at the civic center. Harlem's class walked first, followed by Greenbrier High, Lakeside High and Evans High School.
"It typifies one of life's most important benchmarks," school Superintendent Tommy Price said to Harlem's graduates. "We hope your experience in the Columbia County school system ... has prepared you well for that next step."
Harlem's 2005 class president, Kelly Cheesborough, echoed Price's remarks.
Jenell Hawn (from left), Holly Woodworth and Raynetta Drinnon are all smiles after Greenbrier's graduation ceremony.
"It's time for us now to head into the real world," she said. "We are no longer innocent kids, but the rising future of the greatest nation on Earth."
Greenbrier High Valedictor-ian Rachel Marie Kauffman asked her class to get ready for the "real world," but to also seek out their purpose in life.
"Once we discover what we truly want to do, we should follow it with all of our being," she said.
"Follow your heart. Reach for your dreams. The road awaits us," Kauffman said.
Principal Sandra Carraway's road will take her from the head administrator's post at Greenbrier this summer to an assistant superintendent's job at the school board's main office in Appling.
Carraway recently was promoted and presided over her last graduation as an administrator Saturday.
"Graduation is a happy occasion, but it's tough saying goodbye," Carraway said. "But when you think about it, graduation marks a natural transition, and I'm included in that this year."
Lakeside High School graduates have much to be happy and proud of, Principal Jeff Carney said in a speech to the 2005 class.
Some of Lakeside's achievements made possible by students, Carney said, included achieving the highest average SAT scores in the county for the past 17 straight years, having six National Merit Scholarship finalists this year, producing the county's STAR students 14 of the past 17 years - including two STAR Students this year - and bringing in $2.7 million in scholarship offers for the senior class.
Evans graduates Cheng Ho and Jenifer Rieck (center), co-salutatorians, and Shivani Gupta, valedictorian, are proud of their achievements.
"(These graduates) are part of the reason we are a 2005 Georgia School of Excellence," Carney said.
Still, Lakeside physics teacher John Cato, in a speech to students, said perseverance is more important than accomplishments.
"Making A's and winning games is not the measure of anyone's character," he said. "Staying the course is."
While perseverance is important, graduate Ashley Hausman reminded her fellow graduates that their accomplishments make them remembered.
"We are part of the reason Lakeside was named a high school of excellence and our voices will echo long after we're gone," she said.
Graduate speakers at Evans High School's ceremony expressed gratitude.
Evans co-salutatorian Cheng Ho, who moved to Evans five years ago from Taiwan, opened his speech with a phrase in his native tongue. He then reverted to a language a little more familiar with the crowd.
"Howdy everyone. How y'all doin'?" he said to an delighted cheer from spectators.
Greenbrier High School graduate Aaron Barton poses for a photo with sister Anna Beth Barton and mother, Pat Barton, outside the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center after Greenbrier's commencement ceremony Saturday.
Photo by Barry Paschal
Ho came to America after his father died of liver cancer and his mother became too ill to care for him and his sister. With no English-speaking skills, he said, he remembered how scared he was when he first arrived.
"Now, this place really feels like home, which is something I would have never thought I would have said five years ago," Ho said.
"This community opened its arms to me, taught me character, and made me a man," Ho said.
Like Ho, Evans valedictorian Shivani Gupta said all of Saturday's graduates are from various backgrounds, and each of them can make a difference.
"What is the one thing this diverse group has in common?" she asked. "The capacity to effect change."
Best and Brightest
The Augusta Chronicle recognizes the 25 outstanding members of the Class of 2005 - the winners of our Best and Brightest Awards.
Lists of graduates
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