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Graduation marks turning point for Eagles

Staff Photo: Lee Depkin. Eastside teacher Judy Smith, left, looks on as Leeanne Biggers, John Temple Blaker and Jessica Blare examine their newly acquired diplomas at commencement exercises Saturday. Biggers played the piano and sang "For Just a Little While," written by Sally K. Albrecht and Jay Althouse, during the ceremony.

Staff Photo: Lee Depkin. Eastside teacher Judy Smith, left, looks on as Leeanne Biggers, John Temple Blaker and Jessica Blare examine their newly acquired diplomas at commencement exercises Saturday. Biggers played the piano and sang "For Just a Little While," written by Sally K. Albrecht and Jay Althouse, during the ceremony.

CONYERS -- They lined up as high school seniors and walked out as graduates.

Eastside High School celebrated the graduating class of 2010 Saturday morning in a commencement ceremony at Church in the Now.

The sanctuary was filled with family and friends eagerly anticipating the arrival of the graduating students, and the quiet crowd grew more excited as the graduates filled their seats during the processional.

Principal Dennis Roddenberry congratulated the students on their individual and collective accomplishments during their four years of high school and announced the 254 graduates had been offered $1.5 million in scholarships.

These students, he said, "have distinguished themselves academically, athletically and in the arts and business."

Salutatorian Naomi Wills took the stage and encouraged her fellow classmates to celebrate graduation, but also to use their experiences in high school as a positive foundation for their future endeavors.

"This is not only significant as the climax of our high school years, but also as a turning point in our lives," Wills said. "A new beginning starts today."

Valedictorian Katelyn Yeomans took a moment in her speech to thank her mother for her dedication of homeschooling Yeomans, one of six children, during her elementary school years. Yeomans said graduation is "a bittersweet moment."

"It's time to move on, but it's hard to say good-bye," she said.

And while everyone is heading in different directions, Yeomans said members of the Class of 2010 can all look back at their time at Eastside to see where they began.

"It's time to start a new journey," she said. "Eagles, now is the time to spread our wings and soar."

Graduating senior Leanne Biggers played the piano and sang, "For Just a Little While," written by Sally K. Albrecht and Jay Althouse, and then Roddenberry and Assistant Principal Bruce McColumn presented the diplomas to the graduates.

Despite McColumn's request that guests remain quiet until the last graduate was announced, members of the crowd immediately began cheering as the first name was called.

Christopher Elliott received special appreciation from the crowd as the only Eastside graduate who had not missed a day of school since kindergarten.

And when the last senior's name -- Ashton Ziadie -- was announced, graduates, friends and family erupted in cheers, whistles and applause for the EHS Class of 2010.