By Maria-Jose Subiria
The crowd roared with applause, and cheered as about 75 students walked across the stage of the Clayton County Public Schools' Performing Arts Center, during the Elite Scholars Academy Charter School's first "Eight Grade Graduation Ceremony."
Among those happily celebrating the accomplishment, was Graysen Walles, lead administrator and founder of the school. The students will continue their education at the charter school, as they will become the student body of the academy's "high school," as they move now from 9th grade through the 12th grade, and graduation from high school, according to Walles.
Some students expressed their readiness to continue on, and had achievements to support their desires.
"Most of the time, I kind of like it, because I like more attention," said 14-year-old Shamala Williams, an upcoming freshman, "but I wish there were upperclassmen, so I can learn from their mistakes."
Williams was recognized during the graduation ceremony, as getting a $25,000 scholarship, through the Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP).
She said she will participate in TIP's summer program, which allows her to take a college class, and get college credit for it. This summer, she said, she will attend a neuropsychology class at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) University, in College Station, Texas.
"First of all, she's is a high achiever, and a self-starter, and this school has helped her with all that," said her mother, Sheila Williams. "All these classes are honors [level] and she is in the gifted program here."
Gabrielle Abraham, 14, achieved the highest numerical grade average of 97.4, in her eight-grade class, and was also recognized for her success, during the ceremony.
"We were the first eight-graders to set foot in this school ... A vast majority of our class shed blood, sweat and tears," said Abraham, describing the academic dedication her peers put toward their education.
Founder Walles said, as the students enter into their freshman year, which begins on July 12, they will begin to take more advanced-placement and dual-enrollment courses, which will allow them to receive college credit. The goal of the school is to prepare students to get into Ivy League, and tier I colleges, he said.
During spring break this year, he said, his students toured colleges, such as Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., Yale University, in New Haven, Conn., and Columbia University, in New York City, giving them an idea of what they can aspire to achieve.
Walles said upcoming sixth-grade students, interested in attending the charter school, will be selected through a lottery pool. Between 75 and 80 sixth-graders are chosen a year.