Cobb grew its high school alumni family by 8,178 this past week, when students in public and private schools graduated in ceremonies concluding on Saturday.
The oldest school in Cobb celebrated its 114th commencement Saturday morning in the tradition of previous years — within the sturdy walls of Northcutt Stadium. There were 354 Marietta High School seniors who graduated in the Class of 2012, a class noted for its uniqueness over the past four years.
“Our class doesn’t always take the expected path, but that’s what makes it awesome,” valedictorian Sagar Patel said in his co-address with salutatorian Mary Allyson Chastain.
“Members of our class have broken school records, been part of elite music programs and dance studios, and won outstanding academic and sports scholarships,” said Chastain, who is headed to the University of Georgia. “We would say that our class has a lot of unique people with different talents.”
Among those who graduated was Larry Simmons, who has been unable to walk since birth and confined to a wheelchair. Throughout the school year, he practiced standing on his own two feet to receive his diploma on graduation day, said Principal Leigh Colburn. He did so Saturday to a standing ovation from his fellow graduates, including his twin sister, Lauren Simmons, and the crowd.
“While obviously we have students in wheelchairs who accepted diplomas — that’s perfectly fine — it was Larry’s dream that he wanted to stand to receive his diploma,” Colburn said.
“What was special to the students here is that even though they’ve been with Larry for 13 years, they’ve never seen him out of his wheelchair.”
A day after six people were treated for heat-related symptoms at McEachern High School’s outdoor graduation in Powder Springs, Colburn said two “cool rooms” inside Northcutt were set up to treat any such emergencies at Marietta’s ceremony.
McEachern’s graduation was one of three in Cobb that were scheduled outdoors. Marietta’s and Allatoona High School’s ceremonies took place outdoors Saturday morning. There were no reports of any heat-related incidents.
But at least one person was treated Saturday afternoon by first responders for heat-related symptoms at Pebblebrook High School’s commencement at Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, according to a public safety officer. It’s customary at some ceremonies for guests to wait outdoors until the public is allowed inside the event facilities.
The high temperature on Saturday was around 92 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
A total of 8,178 students graduated this year in Cobb, including 7,500 in the Cobb County School District, 354 in Marietta City Schools, 98 Mount Paran Christian School students, 94 Walker School students, 67 Whitefield Academy students, 50 North Cobb Christian School students, nine Cumberland Christian School students, and six Cornerstone Preparatory Academy students.
Following an impassioned speech about the importance of remaining focused on success by Cobb School Board Vice Chairman David Morgan, who represents Pebblebrook, the school’s senior class president, Kenyanna Russell, echoed that sentiment in advising her classmates to concentrate on their future.
Michelle Mendez recalled her first day at Pebblebrook as a freshman, lost in the crowded hallways filled with more students than she expected, confused by her class schedule, and saddened that she had only one course with her best friend.
But ultimately, she and her fellow graduates survived such uncertainties that life threw at them over the past four years.
“Although freshman year wasn’t a walk in the park, it did bring forth a sense of responsibility and maturity that I carry with me today,” said Mendez in her valedictorian speech.
Pebblebrook’s class of 2012 collectively earned more than $4.3 million in scholarship money from colleges and universities across the country, including Auburn, Boston University, Loyola Marymount, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Spelman, Morehouse, Oglethorpe and the University of Georgia.
“They continuously have exhibited leadership qualities throughout the school year,” Principal Zinta Perkins said. “Our graduates are now ready to pursue the next phase of their lives by going into the military, attending college or going into the workforce.”
North Cobb High School Principal Dr. Phillip Page also highlighted the accomplishments of his graduating seniors on Saturday night. He said they had earned more than $3.5 million in scholarship money, completed hundreds of hours of community service, and achieved the highest test scores in the school’s over 50-year history.
Standing before her classmates who had gathered together for the last time at the KSU Convocation Center, North Cobb valedictorian Sarah Geil — who earned a 4.727 grade point average — noted that their generation had lived through the events of Sept. 11, 2001 as elementary school students, learned to text message as middle schoolers, and were beginning the next chapter in their lives as graduating seniors.
“The world is your book, read it,” she said.