Pockets of cheers erupted from the capacity crowd in the home stands of the football field as the 184 graduates received their diplomas.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you have completed the first step towards becoming a true individual,” Rockmart principal Teresa Treadaway told the students. “Think of it as your ticket to change the world.”
Treadaway informed the family and friends gathered that the group of graduates included 43 honor graduates that have maintained a 3.0 GPA throughout their high school career.
The class of 2011 has been awarded more than $500,000 of scholarship money, not including 65 students who are eligible for the Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship program.
Senior class secretary Luke Connell spoke about the transition he faced as he switched from being home schooled to attending public school for the first time as a freshman at Rockmart High School.
“I could never have done it without the help of my parents, sisters, family and close friends,” Connell said. “They supported my in some of my hardest moments and they can never now enough how thankful I am.”
As the graduating class’ salutatorian, Connell challenged his classmates to never be afraid of change when it can make a person better.
“Take it from me – the shy, weird home school kid – you can change yourself for the better,” he said. “It can be difficult. It can be incredibly scary. But if it’s something that you really want, it is possible.”
Class valedictorian Ally Wilson was sentimental in her speech to her fellow students as she looked at the moment.
“This moment has been what we have looked forward to for so long that we would all really like to freeze time at this second to hold this ceremony, this scene, this moment, forever,” Wilson said.
“Our moment is here yet we must keep moving forward. We have built up to this moment for 12 years but there is life beyond this moment for us.”
Wilson mentioned instances during her class’ time at Rockmart High School – some common, some not – that will make up each student’s memory of high school.
“As a class, we are many different people and many different personalities,” she said. “Yet this moment is the one memory that will always be a common bond between us. No matter where we go and what we do, we will always be members of the class of 2011.”
While the evening took on the usual atmosphere of celebration, time was taken to recognize Cody Scoggins, a member of the class of 2011 who was severely injured in a car accident last November.
Scoggins has been unable to attend school for the remainder of the year and was honored Friday night by a single carnation on the table holding diplomas as well as the blue ribbons worn by the graduates.
“Though Cody is not able to walk with his classmates tonight, our thoughts are with him and our prayers go towards his full recovery,” Treadaway said during her address to the crowd.
Wilson added a reaffirmation to Scoggins that his place among his classmates will never be lost.
“Cody, you cannot be with us here tonight for the ceremony that you, too, have dreamed about so long but remember that you will still always be one of us, a member of the class of 2011,” she said.