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Lee County High graduates 370 seniors

Dressed in Trojan-red graduation garb, Lee County High School’s crop of 2013 seniors celebrate at their ceremony Saturday. Valedictory messages were delivered by graduates Jamie McClung and Laine Ellington.

Dressed in Trojan-red graduation garb, Lee County High School’s crop of 2013 seniors celebrate at their ceremony Saturday. Valedictory messages were delivered by graduates Jamie McClung and Laine Ellington.

LEESBURG, Ga. -- More than 370 red-gowned ex-high school seniors marched in measured meter Saturday to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance. Many were nervous, all them excited. Some expressed discomfort in a new beginning which would separate them from their friends.

“I’m so excited for today,” said graduating senior, Holly Ebbets. “But it’s bittersweet. I’m sad to see my friends go, but I look forward to going to UGA and majoring in biology.”

Taylor Cheshire called herself “nervous but excited,” and hopes to stay in touch with some of her friends by staying in Albany, at least a few more years.

“It’s exciting but sad at the same time,” Cheshire said. “I know it’s the last time I’ll see a lot of my friends”

Cheshire said she plans to start the four-year nursing program at Darton State College.

Blake Willian seemed eager for his inevitable new beginnings.

“We’re so super excited to be graduating with my family, the cast of 2013,” Willian said. “We’ve been through so much together. We’re just ready to get out of here and enjoy life, turn up and do our thing.”

For the unenlightened, urbandictionary.com defines “turn up” as “getting wild or excessively crazy.” While turning up, Willian plans to attend Darton State College, he said, then Georgia Southern University for an agri-business major.

The valedictory address was shared this year by Jamie Michelle McClung, who chose friendship as her connecting theme, and Laine Suzanne Ellington, using popular music titles and lyrics to deliver her message.

“Whether you’ve met friends through chance encounters, like being middle school bus buddies or through a common activity, these friends have intertwined themselves into your life,” said McClung in her address. “Friends are the reason we are who we are as people, just as choices are the reason we end up where we do in life. We don’t choose our starting points, but the decisions we make and the friends we meet help us reach our destinations.”

“Life keeps going no matter what we say or what we do,” Ellington said. “But through the rise and falling apart we discover who we are. That is what is beautiful about this whole transition in life. It’s a time to make mistakes, and as Leesburg’s Luke Bryan says, ‘Thank God we get more than one shot.’ Right now we can still blame our mistakes on the fact we’re teenagers. Later in life we may be held more accountable, but tonight we’re young so let’s set the world on fire. We can burn brighter than the sun. Let’s show this town how to kiss these stars, and remember that we only live once.”

Lee County High School Principal Kevin Dowling, whose daughter Sarah graduated with honors, offered advice to the newly graduated.

“I give you this challenge,” Dowling said. “Whatever it is you choose to do in this life, do it well. Enjoy every moment, there’s too much worry in the world. Never give up, no matter how hard or impossible things may seem. Dance. Don’t sit things out.”

As graduates stepped to the dais to make the day official, they received only the diploma covers, not the documents themselves. For that, the grads were obliged to gather after the ceremony in a predetermined room.

Unknown to Briana Walker, her older brother Blake had witnessed her graduation and was waiting to surprise her. Blake Walker had spent the past 19 months as an army specialist in Korea and had been granted a short leave from duty.

When Briana Walker went to claim her diploma she was told there was a “problem” and she should proceed to another section of the room and straighten it out. She found her coveted certificate there and her brother Blake as well, prompting hugs, and tears of joy from Briana. Happy graduation.