By Greg Gelpi
Stepping on to a college campus, Ryan Kelly, 17, called the experience "surreal."
"I'm here," he says. "I made it this far."
It was only a two-day visit, and Kelly returned to the real world as a Lovejoy High School senior.
He, along with his fellow seniors, will be graduating May 27 and, although it marks the end of high school, many students see it as only the beginning.
Nash Wazir, 17, says that the Lovejoy High Class of 2005 sets itself apart from other classes and other schools with its maturity.
"We just look ahead to things like college," Wazir says. "We try to think of our futures instead of just play, play, play."
He says that many of his classmates already have plans for the future.
"It's very fulfilling to know you're about to graduate," Wazir says. "It feels great to be able to go to college and begin your life."
Olivia Franco, 18, shares the excitement as graduation day approaches, but admits a little apprehension with being away from her parents for the first time as an up-and-coming college student.
"It makes me excited to think about my future," Franco says.
But, she is doing more than just thinking about her future, working after school at a local restaurant to save money for college.
"It's going to be sad, though, really leaving all the people you knew for four years," Franco says. "You're really growing up and getting ready for the future."
Maryella Shelton-Dyson, 17, began planning for her future before stepping foot on to the Lovejoy campus, she says.
"I came to high school handling my business," Shelton-Dyson says, explaining that she worked hard from day one to establish her high academic marks. "I'm just wondering what my life is going to be like because I'm used to this schedule."
The maturity of the senior class can be seen in more than just academics, Chad Bishop says. Despite the diversity of the senior class, there aren't any "cliques."
"I think this senior class is a lot more mature," Bishop says. "I feel more mature myself, and I feel like I'm in a more mature place."
Lovejoy High School has led the county in academics, athletics and extracurricular activities, Ashlee Kidd, 18, says.
"We all come together, work together as one senior class," she says.
Kidd also works an after school job, along with sports and other extracurricular activities, and says it comes down to time management.
"I guess you've got to do what you've got to do, but your academics come first," she says.
All of the seniors express mixed feelings about graduating, excited to be going, but sad about leaving friends.