Monroe High School graduates are all smiles during their graduation exercises Saturday at the Albany Civic Center. (May 18, 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. -- All day Saturday, graduates of Dougherty County's four public high schools streamed through tunnels to take their seats on the floor of the Albany Civic Center.
To see Spotted photos from Saturday's graduation ceremonies, Click here.
More than 650 seniors from the county's high schools picked up their high school diplomas, marking the end of one chapter of their lives and the beginning of another.
"It only seems like yesterday that were were just ninth-graders, nervous and trying to fit into an unknown environment," Monroe High's Alexandria Van Dyke said, addressing her 180 fellow graduates. "But we studied and struggled together and here we are at the most significant life-changing moment so far in our lives.
"We finally made it."
Fellow graduate and speaker LaTia Hall agreed.
"Today is our day, our moment to take in all we have accomplished over the past 12 years," she said. "Now we have the freedom to dare and the freedom to excel. You may look to the stars and say they are too far, but you can reach them.
"To all the teachers, family and friends that helped us get here, we say, 'Thank you.'"
Dougherty High's Amira Hillsman, while giving her valedictorian address to 131 fellow graduates, said, "Many see me as some sort of exceptional student, but I think I am ordinary. Our path in life is set by our creator, yet I'd like to thank my parents and sister for being my support group.
"Now is the time for us to buckle down and strive for success. It is my hope that you find it well beyond the doors of Dougherty Comprehensive High School."
Earlier in the morning, Westover High had 230 seniors graduate, including 54 honors graduates. Principal William Chunn said the senior class earned $1.5 million in scholarships.
"Our numbers were a little down this year; the senior class was smaller than I can remember." Chunn said. "But we have a huge junior class coming up and both those numbers will rise, I promise you that."
Albany High's commencement, which saw 148 seniors walk and pick up diplomas, closed the day's ceremonies.
"Congratulations to all of us," Student Council President Allison Lewis told her classmates. "This was not an easy journey. The past four years have been full of happiness and struggles, but we made it. Now it's time to begin another chapter in our lives, but where do we go from here? There is no simple answer because we are all going in separate directions.
"But I do know this. The Class of 2013 is the future of the world."
AHS Star Student Katherine Godwin echoed her classmate.
"The past four years have been the hardest of my life, but it made me into the person I am today," she said. "During my four years at Albany High, some of the most amazing people have come into my life.
"We started in a new place and became a family. This is just another start."