Not only does NHS graduate Tamia Moss have a right to celebrate upon receiving her diploma, but she is also laden down with gifts from well-wishers who include family members and her godmother Jackie Wright.
At A Glance: Newton High School Graduation
Location: Springfield Baptist Church
When: 8 p.m. Friday, May 24
Valedictorian: Alex Grady
Salutatorian: Brittain Hunt
Welcome Address: Ali Punjani, student body president
Opening Remarks: Jemeia Kollie, senior class president
Number of Graduates: 353 (including 50 honor graduates)
Class Song: “Hold on to the Memories” performed by Kwinyea Hardeman, Courtney Manning, De’Anthony Miller, Debra Parks, Danielle Stabile and Valincia Yates
Special Performers: JROTC, Newton High School Symphonic Band
COVINGTON -- The last graduating class of the existing Newton High School building left its mark.
The class earned a record amount of scholarship offers -- totaling $10.3 million, more than the $8.8 million offered to the Class of 2011 and the $9.1 million offered to the Class of 2012, and even more than the $10 million goal that NHS Principal Craig Lockhart set for the class at the beginning of the school year. It includes five Gates Millennium Scholars, who can earn up to $500,000 each for college.
"This is truly the class to beat," Lockhart said.
Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews commended Lockhart for leading a school with an 88 percent improvement rate on state assessments over the previous three school years and a 16 percent improvement on the graduation rate from 2011 to 2012.
"We are exceedingly proud of your accomplishments," said Mathews to the graduates. "We wish each of you continued success."
In several speeches, top students recognized the class as "the greatest graduating class in history" and "the best."
"We are Rams -- Rams rise," said Salutatorian Brittain Hunt in reference to the school's mascot.
The students said the graduating class is made up of future neurologists, educators, lawyers and even NFL stars.
"This is where life begins. This is where decisions are made. This is where you have a chance to make something of yourself," said Valedictorian Alex Grady. "As time goes by, so does the opportunity for turning dreams into reality. ... Believe in yourself."
Lockhart presented awards to six graduates, including Grady, who achieved perfect attendance from kindergarten through 12th grade; the Super Senior award to William Mills, who started an awareness campaign against bullying; the $1,000 Porter Memorial award to Grady for earning the highest SAT score; and the Atlanta Journal Constitution Cup award to Imari Daniels for being the best all-around student.
No matter the successes of the graduates, student body president Ali Punjani put everything into perspective for his classmates: "High school is done. It's over with and behind us. ... We do not have to wait until Friday to have chicken tenders. We can have them every single day."