For more than a decade, Columbia County school board member Mickie Blackburn has shaken the hands of the school system's high school graduates. She'll repeat that task one last time during graduation ceremonies Saturday at Augusta's James Brown Arena.
More than 1,400 seniors from the county's five public high schools are set to receive diplomas this year, Blackburn's last as a school board member. She's retiring from the post after 12 years.
"It's been very, very sad for me knowing this will be the last one," Blackburn said. "This is one of my very favorite things I've done as a school board member.
"So even though it will be sad, it'll be hard to feel that way, because it's so special to those graduates and they're so happy. It'll be a thrill for me to still be a part of that."
Blackburn expects the ceremonies this year to last as long as 12 hours, but she said the variety of the ceremonies prevents her from becoming wearied.
"I never get bored," she said. "It's a wonderful experience for me to watch the different schools do their different takes on graduation and to listen to the different speeches."
Though Saturday's commencement ceremonies mark an end for Blackburn, they signify the start of a new tradition in Columbia County -- five graduations.
Grovetown High School's first commencement ceremony will wrap up the day's events.
The 86-classroom school on Chamblin Road opened on Aug. 10. Its 74 teachers taught about 1,100 students, including more than 140 seniors.
Seniors living within Grovetown High's zone were given the option of remaining at their initial Columbia County high school; the 142 who chose to switch will become the first to receive diplomas from the new school.
The first senior getting a diploma from the new Grovetown High School will be valedictorian and STAR student Trinity Bass.
Grovetown's ceremony starts at 6:30 p.m.
Graduation day starts with Evans High School at 9 a.m., followed by Greenbrier High at 11:30 a.m. Afternoon ceremonies begin with Lakeside High at 2:30 p.m., followed by Harlem High at 5 p.m.
Also conducting graduation ceremonies Saturday is Augusta Christian Schools at 4 p.m. in the sanctuary of West Acres Baptist Church on Gibbs Road.
Augusta Preparatory Day School's graduation will be held 2 p.m. May 30 in the Boardman Athletic Center on the school's campus.
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