By Greg Gelpi
The lockers are empty and students' eyes are fixed on the clock.
The Clayton County Public Schools Class of 2004 is patiently and not so patiently counting down until its graduation.
"Now that I've grown up, I'm becoming a baby all over again," Forest Park High School senior Yevetta Jones said. "I'm going to be crying (at graduation). I'm going to be on my knees crying."
Jones said it seems as though she has two lives, one that will end with her high school graduation and one that will commence shortly afterward.
Jones said that she and many of her classmates went to elementary and middle school together. Her life with those friends is ending, and a new life is beginning.
"We all grew up together," Jones said. "Now we have to leave them. This time we're actually leaving. It's actually a goodbye."
Mixed emotions are stirring inside the county's seniors, who are glad to be nearly finished, sad to be leaving friends and nervous about what the future holds.
"I'm scared," Jones said. "Your mom is not going to be able to help you with everything."
Fellow classmate Jessica Kilby shares the same feelings about "going into the world."
"We're finally graduating," Kilby said. "It's a milestone, but it's sad because we're leaving friends. It will be good to have one last day for the seniors to be together again."
Graduation can't come soon enough for Jonesboro High School senior Karen Mosley.
"I'm counting the seconds," Mosley said. "I'm just ready to graduate. It's been so long, 12 years. I didn't think it would ever come."
She said she is excited, but tired from the final days of school.
"I'm just relaxing," Mosley said. "I'm trying not to stress too much."
Graduation will mark one step closer to Jonesboro High senior Johnson Wallace's dream.
"It's always been a dream of mine to be on the sea," Wallace said. "I've been waiting for this day so long."
Wallace will join the Navy after he graduates, he said.
He has "just been marking the days off the calendar," he said.
Seniors are itching to leave and catching "senioritis," Marc Genwright, the Forest Park High senior class sponsor, said.
"The only way to get rid of senioritis is a diploma," Genwright said.
The Clayton County school system issued a list of dos and don'ts for graduating seniors and others going to the graduation ceremonies.
"Everyone is playing pranks," Jones said. "We don't want to do anything that will prevent us from graduating."
School officials ask students to dress comfortably, arrive early and not create disturbances. They also ask that parents not use tripods, stand in front of others, bring balloons, remove their children without checking them out or yell during the ceremonies.
Parents should not walk to the stage to take pictures during the graduation ceremonies, and students should not throw their caps.