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Commencement ceremonies held for Newton County Schools
Alcovy graduation
An Alcovy High School graduate celebrates during the school's 2022 commencement at Sharp Stadium in Covington Thursday, May 19. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — More than 1,300 students made up Newton County Schools’ Class of 2022 — a class that many district staff and administrators believe is destined for greatness.

Commencement ceremonies for Alcovy, Eastside and Newton high schools were held this past week inside Homer Sharp Stadium in Covington. During each ceremony, Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey shared parting wisdom to each group of seniors.

“Stay focused on your goals and visions for the future,” she said. “Seek advice often … Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t try to go it alone.”

Fuhrey said there were four “life- and game-changing” words each student should remember as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.

“Listen to your parents,” she said. “Your parents are wise, and their experiences and failures have equipped them to be your guide as you enter life after high school.

“Listen to them,” Fuhrey continued. “Trust me on this one.”

Eastside’s commencement ceremony was held Wednesday, May 18. Before diplomas were presented, Assistant Principal Bart Buff shared that the class comprised of more than 320 students had been awarded $13.1 million in private, academic and athletic scholarships to date. He said that total was “the product of your hard work and perseverance.”

Eastside Principal Jeff Cher voiced his appreciation of his students and their accomplishments.

“You’ve continued the legacy that Eastside graduates excellence, and I’m going to miss each and every one of you,” he said.

Cher said he takes time each day of school to remind students that there is no such thing as an unimportant day or unimportant person. And he chose to impart that same wisdom one final time to the Class of 2022.

"We charge you to take the next steps in this world with the full awareness of the investment of time and love poured into you by your family, teachers, counselors, coaches, administrators, community members and all who have assisted in the journey thus far,” Cher said. “Honor them. Honor them by living life to the fullest and demonstrating love, kindness and generosity to all around you. Because of their support and your hard work, you graduate as citizens that our entire community regards with pride. Class of 2022, you have definitely made the most of every opportunity to learn, grow, develop and reach your fullest potential. You’re an inspiration to me, the staff, our school system, the community and certainly future graduates of our great school. Never forget that there’s no such thing as an unimportant person or an unimportant day, and life passes in the blink of an eye.”

Ceremonies for Alcovy were held the following night, Thursday, May 19. Principal Kristopher Williams said the 423 graduates had received $13.4 million in private, academic and athletic scholarships and been accepted to 56 different post-secondary schools.

“Throughout your high school careers, you were able to demonstrate that no hurdle was too high, no obstacle too big to keep you from achieving your goals,” he said. "This class has set the bar extremely high for every class that follows.”

Williams also quoted Martin Luther King Jr.

“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward," he said.

Ceremonies for the district concluded with Newton on Friday, May 20. In an address to her more than 580 graduates, Principal Shannon Buff expressed her admiration for a group she described as “special.”

“The fact that you are sitting in your blue and white gowns show your resilience and commitment to all the opportunities that being a graduate of Newton High School will afford you,” she said. “I speak collectively for the NHS administrative team when I share that there has always been something special about your class.

“The way that you treat each other and the way that you treat those outside of NHS is a testament to your character,” Buff said. “I’ve been incredibly proud of your advocacy and your activism. When you’ve seen others be mistreated or marginalized, you stepped up and pushed for real change … You give us hope.

“You are the future, and I feel confident in all that you will accomplish.”

Buff later quoted former President Barack Obama to say, “Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.”

“You embody the hopes of this community, this state, this nation and this world,” Buff said, “and it has been my privilege to serve as your principal.”

Buff said Newton High School’s Class of 2022 earned $48.3 million in private, academic and athletic scholarships, which shattered a previous record of $27 million in scholarships for the Class of 2021. 

Buff said there were 11 students to earn more than $1 million apiece in scholarship offers.

“I believe this Class of 2022 in Newton County is special,” District 1 BOE member Trey Bailey stated on social media. “Mark me. Greatness coming out of this class.”

Tom Spigolon, news editor of The Covington News, contributed to this report