COVINGTON - Newton County celebrated the top 10 students at each high school Tuesday night with a reception in their honor.
The 30 students, their families and their favorite teachers enjoyed a gathering at Alcovy High School, during which the Rotary Club of Covington celebrated its success with refreshments and guest speakers for the 43rd year.
"A former Rotarian once said, 'Our prayer and sincere desire is that we may inspire our youth to live ... and to build a better Rotary Club of tomorrow," Rotarian Bob Stafford said about the top students, who were chosen based on their grade point averages.
Georgia Rotary Student Program foreign exchange student Tristan Gray, a native of Whakatane, New Zealand, who studied film at the University of Georgia this school year on a Rotary scholarship, was one of the featured speakers of the night.
He recommended that students study abroad at least once in their lives.
"You learn so much in the classroom and the world around you," he said. "It's been a good year."
Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley told students and parents to be prepared for some realizations in the coming weeks and years - graduating high school, moving away to college, getting a job, learning real life lessons.
"This is where it begins, where the rubber hits the road," he told attending families. "You're excited ... but it's kind of bittersweet - you'll be on your own."
He said he hopes the Newton County School System has prepared them for what lies ahead.
"It's very important to (educators) that our students do well," he said. "But you will choose what you learn in many lessons of life ... only you can make that decision."
He left them with four words that he has lived by - vision, commitment, confidence and compassion.
He also thanked teachers, administrators and parents for their hard work with the kids.
"Many have gone well beyond their call of duty to support the students to be achievers," he said.
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.