Grads remember those lost, look to next step

In more ways than one, Brandon Herrington could truly say he was at his graduation Tuesday thanks to the help of a teacher.


"I wasn't planning on going to graduation 'cause I didn't have the money," said the A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet senior, noting he had been unable to afford his class pictures, a class ring, or the cap, gown and tassel.

Teacher Millicent Bowman made sure he had the money for his cap and gown, contacting a private company that then donated the money. 

"It meant a real lot for me," said Herrington, who was among 81 A.R. Johnson students clad in purple and white receiving diplomas in James Brown Arena.

The graduation was the second of five Tuesday for Richmond County schools, with the county's remaining five taking place there today.

For A.R. Johnson, there was plenty to applaud, with an announcement that its Class of 2010 had won a total of $1,066,075 in scholarships.

"A.R. Johnson has prepared each of us for our next chapter in life," the school's salutatorian, Joseph Goodwin, told the crowd.

The day was one full of pomp and circumstance and plenty of shouts, claps and whistles.

Lucy C. Laney High School

The day's celebrations started with 140 students receiving their diplomas, with a special recognition for senior Jasmine McCladdie, who died of a chronic disease before graduation.

"In honor of our fallen Wildcat, Jasmine McCladdie ... we should remember we are all Wildcats, not just for now, but forever," said co-valedictorian James Anthony.

Another remembrance was taking place in the stands. Patricia Dickerson said she was there to sit in for graduate Brandon James Forrest's grandmother Joan Nipple, who died a year ago. "His grandmother was always there rooting him on," Dickerson said after shouting Brandon's name as it was read aloud. "I really feel her presence."


Graduation was the culmination of the 150th anniversary year of the school, which was founded in 1860.

"Like generations before us, we've witnessed the worst of times and the best of times," honor graduate Jerald Butler told his fellow 239 graduates.

Answered by loud applause, he added: "Am I not standing in front of the best graduating class of Hephzibah High School?"


The senior class chorus serenaded fellow graduates with words of encouragement during the ceremony.

"We made it through the good and bad," they sang. "Now, we stand with hope in our hearts."

Alethia Barnwell, the valedictorian of the class of 144 graduates, said her hope was that her peers had the same faith in themselves that she had in them.

"We've become the ultimate test takers. ... We can do anything," she said.


Harry Ardis rooted and pounded his fist in the air in celebration of his son's achievement -- and his own.

"Getting them out of high school is the parents' job," he said. "Now he's got to do the job of getting out of college on his own. My work is done."

Christopher James Ardis was one of 285 graduates of Richmond Academy on Tuesday evening.

Harry Ardis raised his son and daughter on his own while his wife, Kim, worked in Iraq as a nurse for two years.

His wife returned just a few months ago, in time to see her son graduate. Christopher Ardis will enlist in the Army later this year.

"It was a tough time, but to see him reach this point is a blessing," Harry Ardis said.

More today

The final Richmond County graduation ceremonies will be held today at James Brown Arena:

9 a.m.: Butler High

11 a.m.: John S. Davidson Fine Arts

1:30 p.m.: Cross Creek High

3:30 p.m.: T.W. Josey High

5:30 p.m.: Glenn Hills High



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