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Entering as classmates, leaving as family

By Greg Gelpi

Although they entered as classmates, Forest Park High School seniors are graduating as family. Life's ups and downs have brought the Class of 2005 together and created bonds that won't soon be forgotten, Ramielle Moorer, 18, says.

Welling up with emotion, Moorer describes how her mother fell ill and died last school year, but her classmates were there to provide support.

"They supported me through my trials," Moorer says. "It was very humbling because I didn't expect them to care."

Moorer recalls her mother's advice when she became sick, "The world isn't going to stop because of one person."

The graduating senior says that breaking up with a boyfriend or squabbles with classmates won't stop her from making her mother proud.

"It motivated me to keep on moving," Moorer says. "It's OK to grieve and it's OK to cope, but you're going to have to keep moving."

The familial bonds extend beyond the Class of 2005 to the teachers, Destin Hinrichsen, 18, says.

"Most of the teachers here are like mother figures," Hinrichsen says. "It's just like one big family."

Some members of the senior class have grown up together almost like siblings, such as Hinrichsen and Alexa Atherley, 18, who have attended school together since kindergarten.

"We had the braces, the wild hair, the glasses, but we've all grown up and matured," Atherley says, adding that she has known most of her classmates since elementary school.

Part of that growing up is knowing which path to take and who to hang out with and make friends, she says.

Sharonda Thompson, 18, agrees, saying that she had a "bad falling out" last year with someone who is no longer a friend.

"You can't let them keep you down," Thompson says.

And as the students emerge from high school, they hold big plans for college.

Atherley plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall as the first child in her family and the first on her mother's side of the family to go to college.

"That's a big thing for my family," she says, anxious to graduate from high school. "I'm ready to go, I'm ready to go."

The Forest Park High School graduation will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Clayton County Schools Performing Arts Center, 2530 Mt. Zion Parkway, Jonesboro.