Dougherty Comprehensive High School class Valedictorian Jasmine Shorter delivers the honors address during Dougherty’s commencement exercise Saturday. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)
ALBANY — Decked out in a yellow gown and mortar board cap, Sameka Toombs looked like just any other Monroe High School student who was eagerly looking forward to graduating Saturday morning at the Albany Civic Center.
Toombs, however, was not just any other student. She’s 25 and her class actually graduated from Monroe in 2006. She did not walk with that class because she did not pass the science portion of the Georgia High School Graduation test.
What followed was a series of retests and failures. She took the test for seven straight years before finally breaking through on that final effort.
“I decided I wasn’t going to settle for a GED — I wanted that diploma from Monroe,” Toombs said. “Yes, there were a couple of times I got discouraged. But I have a 3-year-old son. How could I tell him never to give up if I did? So I got a science tutor and we worked together for a month and a half before the test. It worked this time.”
And, just like that, seven years of frustration finally came to to a sweet end.
“It’s a huge relief for me,” Toombs said. “That chapter of my life is closed and is now complete. This diploma was the only thing I was waiting for. Now I can go to Albany Tech in the fall.”
In addition to Toombs, 195 Monroe seniors earned their diplomas.
The county’s four high schools each conducted graduation ceremonies in succession frfom 9 a.m. until the final ceremony began at 4:30 p.m. During Dougherty County High School’s commencement exercises, 102 newly-minted graduates picked up their diplomas.
“My family was the support system I needed to succeed,” class salutatorian and DCHS STAR Student Chauntoria McCray said. “Graduation is a bittersweet experience. For some of us, it hasn’t dawned on many of us that we will never again walk the hallways as students of Dougherty High School. I am going to miss the laughter and the jokes.
“I will miss you, class of 2014.”
Jasmin Shorter was the class valedictorian.
Hours later at Albany High School’s commencement, 155 graduates picked up diplomas. Keirsten Jones was the class salutatorian and Dominique Moseley was the class valedictorian.
Westover, the largest high school in the Dougherty County School System, conferred 215 diplomas.
Honors Student Chirag Mendpara reminded his fellow graduates that their legacy begins today.
“When my family first moved to America, we didn’t have much,” Mendpara said. “But nothing in life comes easy, and it is exciting to think about the possibilities that lie before us right now. We are marks left by our parents; we are their legacy. Let’s make them proud.”
Fellow honors graduate Wai Lam reminded the graduates of their first year at Westover.
“We were all scared just walking through the doors of Westover High School. Each day was terrifying to me,” Lam said. “The second year, we were still scared, but were more comfortable in our surroundings. When we became juniors, our teachers were no longer a T-Rex who wanted to swallow us whole.
“And now, we are finally here. Time has flown by. Teachers presented us with challenges, and we overcame each day.”
All total, the DCSS awarded 667 diplomas Saturday.