By Johnny Jackson
As the first graduating class at Strong Rock Christian School in Locust Grove, 30 graduating seniors have set a high bar for others to attain, according to Clay Osburne, the secondary education principal at Strong Rock.
Most members of the class have already been accepted by colleges and universities, Osburne said, adding that the class has collectively earned more than $1.2 million in merit-based, and athletic scholarships (excluding Georgia's HOPE Scholarship). "It's been an amazing experience to partner with these kids and their families -- to see them graduate and be on their way to achieving their goals and dreams," Osburne said. "They took a leap of faith with us, and now, they are reaping the rewards of their hard work ... "
The 30-member graduating class -- which includes youngsters from Henry, Clayton, Spalding, Butts, and Fayette counties -- graduated on May 21, at First Baptist Church Locust Grove, near downtown Locust Grove. "It was really cool," said Dean Jones, of Locust Grove. The 17-year-old is Strong Rock's valedictorian, and said he nervously addressed a crowd of about 850 during commencement ceremonies. "I'm excited about beginning a new venture," he said. "I'm going to miss high school. It goes by quicker than you know. I really miss it already, but I'm pretty excited about what's ahead of me."
Jones plans to major in nursing at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga., to become a registered nurse. "Whatever I major in, I don't want to be sitting behind a desk, or a computer screen, all day," he said
Jones, who has been at Strong Rock since it opened in August 2007, said the journey toward graduation at the school has not been totally smooth. "I was nervous to go at first, because it was a new school," he said. "I don't regret going, though. I met a bunch of really great people, and they've helped mold who I am. I think we definitely set the bar high. I feel like we all were a great example of how to really react to a new environment and thrive in a new environment."
Fellow Strong Rock graduate, DaShon Douglas, 18, of Stockbridge, echoed similar sentiments.
"It's fun building a relationship with people you wouldn't think to ever meet," said Douglas, the school's salutatorian. "I feel better now. I feel like I'm able to succeed now because of the academic rigor at the school." Douglas plans to major in business at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
Dozens of other area high school seniors have graduated as well, while thousands more will take their commencement walks today.
* New Creation Christian Academy in McDonough held its 2010 graduation exercise on May 15, at Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, according to Judy Foster, administrator at New Creation. Andy Pope, founder of Voice of the Nations Church in Griffin, Ga., delivered the keynote address. Foster said the school does not have a valedictorian or salutatorian.
* Eagle's Landing Christian Academy in McDonough held its 2010 high school graduation on May 16, at the academy. Head of School, Marshall Chambers, noted that the ceremony included a key address by Glenn Shultz, the head master of Sherwood Christian Academy in Albany, Ga. The academy also honored its valedictorian, Julia Echols, and salutatorians, Taylor Jennings, and Jahliel Phillips.
Several other graduations in Henry County are scheduled for today.
* Patrick Henry High School's Class of 2010 will graduate today, at 1 p.m., at the Henry County Performing Art Center, 37 Lemon St., in McDonough, according to Patrick Henry Principal Dan DeWolf. The keynote speaker will be Dana Smith, an organizational diversity consultant with Solutions VII and Company. He said the school, which serves students county-wide, does not have a valedictorian or salutatorian.
* Bible Baptist Christian School, in Hampton, will host its 20th high school graduation today, at 7 p.m. Ceremonies will be held in the school's auditorium, located at 2780 Mount Carmel Road, and will honor the graduating class' three valedictorians, Ian Nething, Joel Felton, and Rachel Blanton, and its salutatorian, Meagan Davis. Bible Baptist Media Specialist Michelle Jarrell said the four are expected to perform a choric (choral) reading, in lieu of speeches.
* Graduating seniors at Union Grove High School will march down the aisle for their diplomas today, at 7 p.m., according to teacher Charles Peabody. The speakers will be valedictorian, Jimmy Bagwell, and salutatorian, Hawley Emanuel. The ceremonies will be held in the school stadium, at 120 East Lake Road in McDonough, and will be rescheduled to Saturday at 10 a.m., in the event of inclement weather.
* Luella High School will have its graduation today, at 8 p.m., on the school's football field, according to Counseling Secretary Belinda Bailey. The speakers will be valedictorian, Sumit Patel, and salutatorian, Joseph Stanford. The rain date is set for Saturday, at 10 a.m., in the school's stadium, at 603 Walker Drive in Locust Grove.
* Stockbridge High School will hold its ceremonies today, at 7 p.m., on the football field, according to Letitia Graham, a counselor at the school. The welcome will be given by senior class Executive President Victoria Beaver, and the inspirational message will be delivered by senior class Vice President Melanie Bahnsen. Valedictorian, Vannida Ket, and salutatorian, Lesley Jaeger, will also give remarks. Stockbridge's rain day is scheduled for Saturday, at 10 a.m., or at 7 p.m., in the stadium, located at 1151 Old Conyers Road in Stockbridge.
* Woodland High School will have its graduation exercises today, at 7:30 p.m., in the school's football stadium, according to Lead Counselor Delicia Fellers. Valedictorian, Daniel McBrayer, III, and salutatorian, Meaghan Davidson, will speak. Woodland's rain day is scheduled for Saturday, at 10 a.m., in the school's stadium, or at 3 p.m., in the gymnasium, located at 800 North Moseley Drive in Stockbridge.
* Graduation exercises at Dutchtown High School will be today, at 7 p.m., at the school's football stadium, according to Assistant Principal Philena Johnson. Scheduled speakers include the senior class valedictorian, Whitney Jinks, and salutatorian, Madia Ashraf. The school is located at 149 Mitchell Road in Hampton.
* Eagle's Landing High School will hold its graduation ceremony today, at 7 p.m., at the football stadium, said Principal Gabriel Crerie. Addresses will be given by the senior class valedictorian, Fatima Hussain, salutatorian, Georgina Sanchez, and senior class president, Destiny Redding. The school is located at 301 Tunis Road in McDonough.
* Henry County High School will hold its graduation today, at 7 p.m., at the school's football stadium, according to Principal Andy Giddens. The scheduled speakers are the senior class valedictorian, Lillian Baxley, and salutatorian, Teressa Hill. The school is located at 401 East Tomlinson Road in McDonough.
* The graduation ceremony at Ola High School will begin today, at 7 p.m., at the football stadium. Principal Ross Iddings said senior class valedictorian, Suprina Patel, and salutatorian, Hunter Furnish, will speak during the ceremony. The school is located at 357 North Ola Road in McDonough.
Staff writers Jason Smith and Valerie Baldowski contributed to this article.