Every graduating senior in the Newton County School System has reason to celebrate Saturday as the three high schools held their commencement ceremonies and waved goodbye to another group of young adults.
The day started at Newton High where Principal Joe Gheesling ushered out his last graduating class. Several members of the Board of Education as well as Superintendent Steve Whatley as the 9 a.m. commencement ceremony kicked off the hectic day.
Valedictorian Joey Barrick and salutatorian Megan Heineman each gave moving speeches.
"When we started here as freshman in the fall of 2004, we were lost," Barrick said. "I didn't know what I was doing. In fact, I actually skipped my fourth period class on my first day of school because I didn't know what lunch period to go to. Then one day, somewhere inside me, amongst these metal walls, I changed. I became the person I am today."
Gheesling, who leaves Newton High after six years, said he was proud of his last class and knows he will miss the students and staff.
"To the Newton High School class of 2008 - congratulations - I love you," he said.
Gheesling awarded Jasmine Renee' Parker for perfect attendance throughout her entire school career.
In all, 391 students participated and received diplomas, handed out by Assistant Principal for Curriculum Carl Skinner and Gheesling.
Eastside High School followed with their ceremony at the Church in the Now at 11 a.m. Principal Robert Daria bid farewell to his graduating class.
Both valedictorian Marley Cain and salutatorian Brittany Mayo gave speeches followed by a stirring performance of an original piano ballad by fellow graduate Judah Swilley.
Cain spoke of the inspiration she received from her brother who died as a result of an automobile accident four years ago.
"Today we are closing a chapter in our lives and beginning a new journey," Cain said. "I challenge you to be happy and follow your dreams. Don't let the pressures of this world leave you jaded."
Daria congratulated his class before handing over the floor to Whatley who released the diplomas. Eastside's class included 240 seniors.
The day culminated with Alcovy High School's second ever graduation in the school's gym.
With a large back drop of gold and black sheeting with a large tiger cutout dangling in the center, valedictorian Joseph Guthrie and salutatorian Morgan Edwards took turns talking about friends, reflecting on lessons learned and wishing fellow graduates good luck.
Principal David Easterday and Assistant Principal for Curriculum Debbie Stephens presented 280 seniors with their diplomas.
"On behalf of the Newton County Board of Education I extend to you the graduates, congratulations," Whatley said. "We're exceedingly proud of you as are your parents, relatives, friend and teachers. We wish for each of you continued successes in all your future endeavors."