By Diane Glidewell
The commencement ceremonies for the 207-member Jackson High School Class of 2010 did not officially begin until 7 p.m., Friday, but all of the parking lots surrounding Red Devil Hill were quickly filling, and there were long lines entering the stadium, by 6 p.m.
The graduates were gathered by the field house in fresh navy blue caps and gowns, chattering nervously with one another as their crowds of supporters sought seats and strained to see them.
At 6:45 p.m., the JHS Band, directed by Stan Koterba, began playing "Pomp and Circumstance," and the white-clad Honor Guard, made up of the students in the Class of 2011 with the highest averages, marched onto the field to escort the young men and women about to graduate to the rows of blue chairs waiting for them.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem, Salutatorian Riley Newman addressed her classmates and those who came to see them graduate. She spoke of how some things change and of how some things never change. She noted how some mistakes are worth making.
After listing the accomplishments of the Class of 2010 in the football championship, soccer playoffs, and the highest percentage passing the Georgia High School Graduation Test, she expressed thanks to faculty and parents, and congratulations and good luck to the graduates.
After scholarships were awarded to graduates by 45 different entities, Jackson High School Principal Duane Kline asked the members of the Class of 2010 who were eligible for Georgia's H.O.P.E. scholarship to stand. They became eligible by virtue of having achieved a grade-point average of at least 3.0 in their core subjects. The graduation program identified 72 graduates who were expected to qualify for the scholarships when their final H.O.P.E. grade-point average was computed. According to Kline, these H.O.P.E. scholarships carry a value of $1.5 million over four years of education.
Kline said he had received a telephone call from 2008 JHS graduate, Chris Stanfield, that morning. Stanfield is currently serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. He wanted to tell his sister, Jennifer Stanfield, how proud of her he is and how he wished he could be at her graduation. Kline asked graduates with plans to enter the armed forces to stand, and about a dozen individuals rose and were applauded.
Additional awards were presented to Katie Alling -- as both Star Student for her 2070 SAT score and as valedictorian for her 98.365 grade average during her high school years -- and to Riley Newman as salutatorian for her 97.52 high school grade average.
In her valedictory address, Alling told her class that of all the gold stars they had enjoyed receiving in school, on Friday they were receiving the most important gold stars ever -- their diplomas. She said the inevitable truth is that the graduates were changing forever. She urged them to be the inspiration to change their own lives and the world would follow.
At last the long-awaited moments came when each graduate's name was called and he or she walked to the front to clasp the red folder which would hold that Jackson High School diploma with his or her name on the top line. The 37 honor graduates came first, with their gold stoles and other significant stoles and cords.
All of the graduates came with smiles, some grasping administrators with hugs on the way past. Cheers burst from the different sections in the stadium as family and friends heard that special name called. Sedric Barlow epitomized the moment with a brief dance before he took possession of his diploma.
After Curtis Young's name was called, tassels were moved across the caps for a brief moment before those caps flew into the air, and the young men and women headed off the field to begin the rest of their lives.