CONYERS - In a place where Salem High School students played and watched basketball games or took physical education classes will now long be remembered as the place where many said their last goodbyes and ended one phase in their lives during Saturday's graduation ceremonies in the school's gymnasium.
"Today, we become adults," said senior class representative Dari Goldman in a special tribute to fellow classmates. "We will truly have to stand tall and walk with grace toward an unknown, but hopeful, future. ... Fear not, young adults - we will prevail."
Goldman predicted SHS will produce star athletes, acclaimed artists and promising scholars as the graduates head off to colleges and universities, the military or employment.
The seniors over the past few weeks have faced many moments of bittersweet emotions, but Salutatorian Maha Syed said graduating high school is anything but the beginning and encouraged her classmates to remember their past as they move forward on their journey through life.
The students also presented Robert Cresswell, who retired in December as principal, with the school year's Warcry Yearbook and called him "the most influential man in our lives."
So far, Salem's 306 graduates - including 59 honor graduates - have been offered $1.3 million in non-HOPE scholarship money, with more offers expected over the summer.
The students of 2008 expressed very emotional and mixed feelings during the ceremony. Emily Holmes described her emotions as numb, and said she was "sad about the people I'm leaving, but not about leaving Salem."
Evan Flory seemed to sum up what most graduates were feeling regarding the future: "My future is going to rock."
- Salem High School student Brittany Lofton contributed to this article.
SideBar: At A Glance
Salem High School Graduation
Number of Graduates: 306
Honor Graduates: 59
Valedictorians: Sarah Adcock and Craig Hayes
Salutatorian: Maha Syed
Class Songs: "When You Come Back Down" by Nickel Creek and "Save Your Goodbyes"