ALBANY, Ga. -- It became a graduation day that stretched from 9 a.m. to past 5 p.m. Saturday as all four Dougherty County School System high schools awarded their diplomas.
The schools with their graduates by time of graduation ceremony at the Albany Civic Center on the 100 block of West Oglethorpe Boulevard were:
* Westover High: 9 a.m., 244
* Albany High: 11:30 a.m., 109
* Dougherty Comprehensive High: 2 p.m., 155
* Monroe Comprehensive High: 4:30 p.m., 167
As is tradition with the school system, principals, Superintendent Joshua Murfree and graduates spoke at the ceremonies rather than any outside speakers.
The themes of family, teacher and classmate support ran through the speeches given by graduating seniors. Sagar Patel, a Westover honor student, set the tone.
"How do I say welcome to 7,000 people, most of you I don't know," Patel said. "Well we are all of the Westover Patriots family. You made us what we are. Thanks for carrying us to this transition."
The transition from student to graduate meant mustering perhaps more courage for some students than others.
Roger Williams overcame a debilitating eye disease that struck him at birth and the loss of his father at age 13 to graduate from Westover with honors.
"The world can't say how proud I am of him," said Willievera Williams, his mother. "There were times when he thought he wouldn't make it, but he never gave up."
Another student who never gave up, Samaria Roberson, an honors student from Albany High, lived through economic circumstances that could have cut her high school career short.
"We did it. We are embarking on a new journey. many said there was no way we would make it," Roberson said. "You don't know it but I lived in a motel on Slappey Boulevard for two years while I was in school. I wasn't expected to make it. I now stand before you as salutatorian of this class. I am rich in spirit and love because I didn't give up."
Students, teachers, family and friends stood in a rush to applaud Roberson, and through her the persistence of all the graduates.
Joshua Christian, an honor student at Dougherty High, said that he could not have done it without the support he received from parents, teachers and friends.
"I can't explain or find the words to say how I feel," Christian said. "I couldn't have gotten here if it wasn't for them."
The graduating class of Monroe High went step further in thanking parents. The school's commencement program gave graduating senior Kevante Florence the honor of presenting a "Special Class Tribute to Parents."
"Parents, we are here because of you. Through all of the times we needed you you stood by us," Florence said. "You are the silent partners in all we have accomplished."
Whether they go into the military, enter the workforce or go on with their education in college the class of 2011 knew where to place the proper respect.
"This is the start of my new life," said Antonio Baker, of Monroe High. "I'm going to college in Savannah. Thanks to my parents."