Covington - Newton High School's 398 graduates probably didn't mind waking up early on their Memorial Day weekend to graduate at the school Saturday morning. Others caught a few more winks of sleep as they waited in the hallway to walk onto the gym floor to accept their diplomas and start the next phase of their lives.
Welcoming those in attendance were student body presidents Courtney Regan and Erinn Lewis-Faupel.
Valedictorian Joey Barrick recalled memories with his fellow classmates - countless lost baseball games and buffets and Stevi B's Pizza, his friends and "brilliant" teachers and the first day of high school, when he skipped half of one class because he wasn't sure what lunch to attend.
"Every day I tried my hardest to fit in because I thought that was all that mattered. Then one day, somewhere inside these flimsy, metal walls, I changed; I became the person that I am today," he said. "I challenge you to use what you've learned here at Newton High School to guide you into tomorrow."
"Although we are all relieved to have finally finished high school, this is only the beginning," said the 2008 Salutatorian Megan Heineman in her speech to students during the ceremony. "If life were a scary roller coaster ride, we would be next in line. So the real questions is, are you going to get on or walk away in fear?"
Principal Joe Gheesling gave a special welcome to members of the Newton County Board of Education, Superintendent Steven Whatley and a surprise guest - Roderick Sams who will take over as principal of NHS for the 2008-09 school year.
He praised the class of 2008 as "high achievers since the ninth grade, as leaders since the ninth grade," but pointed out the accolades the students were receiving at the end of their high school year were not theirs alone. Gheesling pointed to the work done by school administrators, teachers and their families and asked the seniors to give a round of applause to their families.
NHS students plan to attend such schools as the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Georgia, Emory University and Oxford College, Georgia Perimeter College, DeKalb Technical College, as well as schools outside of Georgia. Other students plan to join the military or pursue a career.
So far, students from Newton have been offered more than $3.4 million in scholarships from almost 100 colleges, universities and organizations locally and nationwide.
SideBar: At A Glance
Newton High School Graduation
Location: School's gymnasium
Number of Graduates: 398
Number of Honor Graduates: 56
Valedictorian: Joey Barrick
Salutatorian: Megan Heineman
Student Speakers: Senior Class President Zachary Hunter and Student Body Presidents Courtney Regan and Erinn Lewis-Faupel