As Grovetown High School's first valedictorian, Trinity Bass also became the school's first diploma recipient since the new school opened.
The original Grovetown High School awarded its last diplomas in 1924.
Reflecting on her place in her school's history nearly overwhelmed the 18-year-old.
"I had so many emotions running through me that, even though I tried not to, I started crying during my speech," she said. "We've all worked so hard to get this, and we all know how important it is, that I just couldn't help myself."
Bass couldn't stop from crying while embracing friends after graduation.
During her valedictory speech, Bass acknowledged the difficulty of making one's way in a new school. The lessons learned this year extended beyond the classroom because of that transition, however.
"We met that change head-on and emerged victorious," she said. "Regardless of our circumstances and our surroundings, we can succeed."
For Gabriel Warner, 18, the entire school year, not just graduation day, was special.
"As seniors, we were the ones who got to make the traditions," Warner said of the 120-member class. "We set the standard, and I think we did it right."
Graduation day marks the end of one stage in a teen's life before starting another, so many seniors focused on their futures, but Harlem High's 143 graduates spent much of the day looking back.
Though the school existed in the 1800s, it was in June 1910 that Harlem High conducted its first formal graduation ceremony with just two graduates -- John Louese Williamson and Nannie Violetta Whitaker.
A century later, Whitaker's great-grandson James "Cody" Hunt also received a diploma from Harlem High.
"I do feel special to have that family background that not many, if any, other students have," the 17-year-old said. "All of my family has graduated from Harlem, and we're very proud of that."
Madeline Price, another Harlem graduate, didn't know about the 100th anniversary until Saturday. She said learning of it made an important day even more meaningful.
"I love being a part of history," the 18-year-old said. "In another 100 years, students will be remembering my class."
Considering her place in history still didn't stop Price from relishing the moment.
"It feels surreal," she said after graduation. "I feel grown up now that it's over."
David Durand, 18, was a first-year student at Harlem, but he still appreciated the significance of his graduating class.
"It's really special for this class and for me to be a part of this history," he said.
Commencement ceremonies of Columbia County schools started with more than 370 Evans High School seniors receiving their diplomas.
The seniors anxiously gathered backstage at James Brown Arena, waiting their turn to cross the stage and exchange a handshake for their diploma.
Amanda Wright, 18, was eager to get her diploma and head to Augusta State University to pursue a pharmacy degree, but she had to wait more than most of the graduates because she was among the last called.
"It took forever," she said.
Valedictorian Stephen Hubbard also looked ahead, but said he prized his high school experiences and friendships, which prepared the seniors for their futures.
"Our memories of Evans will never fade as long as there is a star in every "knight," he said in his speech to the graduates.
Salutatorian Troy Griffith, being a "math guy," said he turned to numbers in preparation for his commencement speech.
During his 13-year school career, Griffith estimated, he spent 2,340 days, or 18,720 hours, in classrooms.
He, too, was excited about ending one chapter in life at the graduation ceremony he called "a coming-of-age celebration."
Greenbrier High School senior Ryan Jacobs said becoming a graduate "feels good," but that fact hadn't quite sunk in as he hugged family members after the ceremony.
Missing from the more than 470 Greenbrier graduates were Scott Gillen and Chris Smith. Gillen died Sept. 28 at the school's running track. Smith drowned July 18 while swimming in Clark's Hill Lake.
"Even though they are not physically here with us today, they are here in spirit," valedictorian Jordan Welch said.
She reminded graduates that band member Haley Van Pelt, who watched the ceremony from the stands with her parents, was missing from the graduation stage. Van Pelt was seriously injured in a July 22 car wreck.
Graduates Erika Nouri and Ryler Alford nervously hugged backstage before the ceremony. They agreed that becoming graduates felt "awesome."
In her valedictory speech, Welch said the end of high school marks the beginning of a new life adventure for graduates, whether they are heading to college, the military or directly into the work force.
"We are starting a new journey that needs a new attitude," she said.
As more than 280 burgundy-robe-clad seniors gathered for their graduation, senior Andrea Roselli said she was excited.
Dominique Clarke, too, was keyed up, nervous about that trek across the stage.
"I'm just afraid I'm going to fall," she said.
This year's ceremony for Lakeside was especially meaningful for Principal Jeff Carney, though he tried not to show it.
Carney recently was promoted to assistant superintendent of the school system and is leaving Lakeside High.
"I tried to keep it under the radar," Carney said of his final graduation as a principal. "It's not about the head honcho leaving. It's about the kids."
Though this school year certainly wasn't Lakeside's first, nor its 100th, it was notable in many ways, said students and administrators.
The Georgia High School Association ranked it the No. 1 athletic school for AAAA. It played host to Grammy-winning country band Lady Antebellum for a private concert and the Virginia Tech marching band during a tribute to Ryan Clark. And Lakeside remained one of the top academic high schools in the state.
"It's been an amazing year," said Anne Marie Fox, 18, of her senior class after graduation. "It feels like we packed in so much and it's been such a thrill to get to this point."
Evans Christian Academy
The seven members of the 2010 graduating class of Evans Christian Academy had to stall a few minutes before marching into the auditorium at Crossbridge Baptist Church because school officials couldn't find the music to Pomp and Circumstance .
The brief delay was symbolic for many of the students at the nontraditional school who made their way to graduation by various routes, finally celebrating the receipt of long-sought diplomas.
"School has not always been easy for any of us," Principal Kathy Nave said of the graduates. "But every time they've tried and succeeded, they've learned something."
Those graduates included Nathan Melton, who endured a little teasing for taking longer to reach the commencement milestone than most of his classmates.
"We've really worked hard with Nathan," Nave said. "I'm so proud Nathan's graduating; you just don't know."
They included Kimberly Maas, whose mother, Teri Maas, held Kimberly's infant daughter during the ceremony until ascending the stage to express her pride in her daughter for her perseverance.
Evans Christian's graduation ceremonies include calling a family member to the stage to say a few words about each graduate as he or she receives a diploma.
To all of the graduates, Nave celebrated their success, but then cautioned them not to stop striving for further progress.
"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living," Nave said. "The world owes you nothing; it was here first. You owe the world."
In addition to Melton and Maas, Evans Christian Academy graduates were Carlton Andrews, Kipp Davis, Taysha Lewis, Justin Walden and Jessica Weeks.
The school, formerly in Evans, has been meeting at Crossbridge for the past two years and will move back to Columbia County next year to the former site of Berea Baptist Church on South Old Belair Road.
Augusta Christian Schools
Dr. John Bartlett is in his ninth year as "interim" headmaster at Augusta Christian Schools, which recently named a permanent successor.
Though he will no longer lead the school, Bartlett was optimistic for the future of this year's 65 graduates.
It would be easy to be discouraged by news in the world today, he said, "But when I observe young men and women like these, I say, 'Thank God. Thank God, there's hope for the future.' "
That future includes Georgia Tech for valedictorian Clayton Perry, and a full academic scholarship at Anderson University in South Carolina for salutatorian Jenna West.
For his valedictory speech, Perry spun a story of the mundane future of an imaginary graduate that had the audience laughing along until he reached the end of the tale in which the grad, in his final moments looks back on his life and asks in frustration, "Is that it?"
The lesson, he told his fellow graduates, is not to live ordinary lives but to reach out beyond themselves.
"A life lived in the absence of courage is no life at all," Perry said. "A life lived in conformity is wasted."
The school customarily chooses as speaker a parent who also is a preacher. This year, Augusta Christian didn't have to go far to find one: With commencement exercises held at West Acres Baptist Church in Evans, the speaker was the church's senior pastor, Larry Harmon, whose son, Caleb, was among the graduates.
After tearing up at the sight of his son in the red-and-white-robed crowd of graduates, Harmon told them, "If there's ever anything I can leave with you, students, never forget the power of prayer."
He warned them that the years immediately after graduation, statistically, are a time when teens abandon their church.
"The devil is going to be at every corner of your life," he said, challenging them instead to be open to God's gifts for them.
Contributing to this article were Donnie Fetter, Valerie Rowell and Barry Paschal.
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