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NHS grads celebrate long-awaited day

COVINGTON - The Class of 2009 at Newton High School said goodbye to their high school years as they participated in graduation ceremonies at Church in the Now on Saturday afternoon.

With a 15-minute processional, family members and guests of the graduates welcomed 361 graduates - the largest class in Newton County to graduate this year - to their graduation day.

"In August 2005, this day seemed so far away," said Jherricka Henderson, senior class president, in her opening address. "This is our day, and we fought long and hard in making it thus far. Victory is now."

And although the graduates were commending each other for making it out of high school, the 2009 valedictorian Sarah Lanners warned them not to forget to focus on their futures.

"We've been successful enough to make it to this point of graduation, but to continue down the path of success, we need to persistently use the strengths we've been given that have gotten us this far," she said in her honor address. "After today, we take another step down our paths, hoping we've chosen the right one. ... Success is not guaranteed, nor is failure, so we have to work. We have to take risks so that we can become the generation that ushers in a new age of success."

Quoting such figures as President Barack Obama, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi, the top students in the graduating class praised their classmates and shared words of wisdom. They also thanked Dr. Roderick Sams, who was serving in his first year as principal this school year.

"Without him, this amazing year would not have been possible due to him being instrumental in the organization of our senior trip and exponentially increasing our renewed school pride," said 2009 school salutatorian Geoffrey Nolan in his honor address. "These events have truly made 2009 an unforgettable year, and I owe Dr. Sams my deepest gratitude for all he has done for this senior class."

All Dr. Sams could say after the speech was, "Wow!"

During the awards portion of the program, Sams presented Principal Awards to Nolan and Henderson for their leadership skills and Michael Carlock and Cristina Malcolm for overcoming adverse situations in their personal lives and still making high grades; honored Johnathan Wells for 13 years of perfect attendance; and awarded the AJC Cup Award to Corey Ware for being a well-rounded senior. Sams also presented honorary diplomas to the families of two students who died before graduation day - Terry Jerome "T.J." Dorsey II, whose mother Danyette Watson accepted his diploma, and Martia Vecole Logan, whose father Jeffery Logan accepted her diploma.

To date, graduating seniors at NHS have been offered more than $5.7 million in scholarships to such post-secondary institutions as Mercer University, Savannah State University, Boston University and Tennessee State University, among others.

- Michelle Floyd, Citizen staff reporter

SideBar: At A Glance

Newton High School Graduation

· Location: Church in the Now, Conyers

· Number of Graduates: 361

· Valedictorian: Sarah Lanners

· Salutatorian: Geoffrey Nolan

· Senior Class President: Jherricka Henderson

· Student Body Co-President: Julia Richardson

· Music and Presentations: Newton High School Symphonic Band, senior class ensemble, NHS MCJROTC