COVINGTON, Ga. — Fireworks, pyrotechnics and lights shows could be seen virtually any downtown from Sharp Stadium each night from Wednesday, May 24 through Friday, May 26. That’s because, on each of those nights, Newton County School System’s high schools — Alcovy, Eastside and Newton — celebrated their Class of 2023 graduations.
Social Circle also hosted its high school graduation on May 26 at Redskins Stadium, too.
The graduation ceremonies were the first official events to be held on the new-and-improved Sharp Stadium since the installation of the stadium’s new artificial turf playing surface. The trio of celebrations would also be the last graduation ceremonies of outgoing NCSS superintendent Samantha Fuhrey who announced back in March that she would be retiring from her work in the school system.
“It is with great honor, and a bit of sadness, that I stand before you as your retiring superintendent,” Fuhrey said. “You were in second grade when I became superintendent, and look at you now. It’s with a deep sense of gratitude for the privilege of having been a part of your education journey. Over the years, you’ve grown from curious second graders to confident seniors ready to take on the world.
“I’ve seen you take on multiple challenges and obstacles both in and outside of the classroom, and I’ve marveled at your resilience and perseverance. I’ve been inspired by your kindness and generosity.”
Each school had plenty to celebrate, as the four combined to generate well over $100 million in awarded scholarship money – $98.9 million of that came from the three NCSS high schools. And students will be leaving high school to attend colleges and universities across the country, as well as other alternative post-secondary work and studies.
Fuhrey, who has spent the last 31 years in NCSS with her final 10 years at the school system’s helm, had similar words of instruction and encouragement for each of the three graduating classes.
“The first thing to remember is that life is a journey, not a destination,” Fuhrey said. “There will be twists and turns along the way, and the path you’re on will have unexpected detours. Embrace the detours, and don’t be afraid to veer off the beaten path to try something you hadn’t thought of until that moment.”
Fuhrey also encouraged each student to not be swayed by external pressures and unrealistic expectations.
“It can be easy to get caught up in what people think and expect of you,” she said. “Especially in a world of social media driven by follows and likes. It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, the only opinion that truly matters is your own. Follow your passions, pursue your dreams and never compromise your values or integrity.”
Each NCSS principal personally thanked Fuhrey for her work and wished her well in retirement.
Alcovy High School
Over 400 students participated in the first ever event held on the new artificial turf surface at Sharp Stadium — Alcovy High School’s Class of 2023 graduation.
Alcovy celebrated its class of graduates on Wednesday, May 26 in the Tigers’ annual graduation ceremony.
Lucero Alvarado — who graduated ranked fourth in the class’ standing — began the graduation with the Pledge of Allegiance. No. 3 ranked Suniyah Gibson followed with the official welcome for all family members, friends, community members and other esteemed guests in the Newton County School System.
Alcovy’s salutatorian Natalie Henderson then delivered her remarks followed by Theresa Boney’s valedictorian address.
To close her address, Boney delivered a statement that drew many cheers from the crowd.
“To the Class of 2023, remember to love yours, because there is no such thing as a life that is better than yours,” Boney said. “And to the rest of Alcovy High School, I hate to say it, but you just lost the best class there is.”
On behalf of the Newton College and Career Academy (NCCA), CEO Chad Walker recognized graduates who also attended NCCA during their time in high school.
Dr. Kristopher Williams delivered his principal’s address to the graduates, during which he had a special message to the departing group — a group Williams labeled “The remarkable class of 2023.”
“As you step forward into the world, know that you carry with you the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all those who have supported and nurtured you along the way,” Williams said. “Embrace the challenges, chase your passions and make your mark on the world.”
Once Williams concluded his remarks, he then presented special awards to five students.
The Alcovy Tiger award went to Zabulin Griffith and Caleb Tondee and the Principal’s Award was given to Brooklyn Clark and Cara Dougan. The final honor was the Atlanta Journal Constitution Cup which was presented to Macey Jordan.
Williams then gave his principal’s confirmation of all graduates prior to NCSS superintendent Samantha Fuhrey’s address to the class.
Ron Edwards, one of Alcovy’s assistant principals, called each student’s name as they walked across to receive their diplomas.
Fuhrey returned to the podium to give her confirmation of graduation before Boney came back to lead her class in the turning of their tassels.
At that moment, all seniors sitting on the field officially became alumni of Alcovy High School.
Eastside High School
The 300-plus seniors of the Eastside Eagles class of 2023 pulled in $19.7 million in scholarship dollars, but it was just the sheer exhilaration of having completed the work of graduating that sent the Eastside students into a manic, celebratory frenzy.
Once the tassels were turned, green graduation caps flooded the skies above Sharp Stadium, while a fireworks and lighting show turned the entire place green.
Eastside students began randomly finding people to hug, celebrate with and congratulate as the celebration carried on for more than a few minutes after the official ceremony had ended.
One-hundred and forty-one Eastside students earned grade point averages that designated them as honors students with many already walking away with college class credits through dual enrollment and advanced placement.
Principal Jeff Cher called his 2023 class a special one, given all that they had to work through, starting with the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March 2020.
“I thank you, Class of 2023, for loving each other,” Cher said. “There’s a sustaining, abiding love that’s allowed 400 of you to remain here today and graduate. These experiences in high school will sustain you through times of difficulty and propel you in times of success, because life passes in the blink of an eye. From here, you will travel different courses, and when you stumble and fall in the future, never forget that there’s an entire community here to encourage, support and pick you up, as you pick yourself back up.
“And when you achieve and succeed, never forget that this community is here celebrating with you all.”
Newton High School
The highlight of Newton’s graduating class of 527 seniors came when principal Shannon Buff excitedly declared that the school’s class of 2023 netted $64.3 million in total scholarships awarded.
That amount of scholarship dollars was more than any other graduating class in Newton County history, according to Buff.
She also celebrated the achievements of certain individual students who received their own personal accolades. All types of students were on the receiving end of such awards – from the most understated and quiet to those like UCONN men’s basketball signee and McDonald’s All-American Stephon Castle.
Buff said that all of the accomplishments and accolades garnered by this year’s graduating class — one of the school’s smallest in Buff’s tenure as principal — was something she was proud of, but certainly not surprised about.
“You and your class have been truly exceptional,” Buff said to the students Thursday evening. “Each of you with your diverse backgrounds, gifts, talents and abilities has truly contributed to the rich tapestry that is our student community. You are stronger because of your differences and you must cherish and respect them.”
Social Circle High School
At Social Circle High School, the Class of 2023 will hold special significance for the school. With the group’s 144 seniors graduating, this year’s class is the biggest to graduate in Social Circle history.
Each student speaker had some fun, too, with their times at the podium, too.
After the Pomp and Circumstance entrance led by principal Tim Armstrong, Caroline Anderson and Emma Kell led all attendees in the singing of the National Anthem. Social Circle’s JROTC did the presentation of colors.
Matt Riley offered opening remarks along with the ceremony’s invocation. But, before he departed, Riley yelled, “Roll Tide!” into the microphone. Riley’s closing line drew a few reactions from his fellow graduates and other guests.
Neveah Ragsdale delivered the official welcome prior to Neely Flanagan’s salutatorian address.
Flanagan called attention to Riley’s remark and responded with a “Go Dawgs!” Once again, the crowd made their opinions known.
But Social Circle’s valedictorian Kelan Joiner would get the last word in.
Following the conclusion of his valedictorian address, Joiner said, “Oh, one more thing…War Eagle!”
Armstrong delivered his own address to the Class of 2023. During his remarks, Armstrong acknowledged the academic and athletic achievements of all the seniors.
He listed off region and state championships as well as Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four appearances. Armstrong recognized Social Circle as being named an Advanced Placement (AP) Scholar school with students completing 93 AP classes and finishing 128 dual enrollment courses.
Dr. Carrie Booher — the superintendent of Social Circle City Schools — gave her acceptance of the Class of 2023.
Then, one-by-one, each of the 144 graduates were presented their diplomas by Armstrong, Booher, Crystal Sanford and John Callahan, both being board of education members.
Assistant principal Craig Hargrove officially presented the class as graduates of Social Circle High School and JD Duval gave his closing remarks.
Immediately after Duval took a class selfie from the stage, “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts began playing over the speakers. All of the students left their seats and began forming a circle. Once all the graduates got in the circle, they gathered together and the school chant “S…C!” and threw their caps up in the air in celebration.