2016 GraduationsSee photos and stories from schools around the area

Harlem kicks off county's graduation weekend

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Graduation season for Columbia County schools got off to a hot start for a second consecutive year at Harlem High School Friday night.

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Harlem High School graduates toss their caps into the air at the end of their graduation ceremony.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
Harlem High School graduates toss their caps into the air at the end of their graduation ceremony.

Before a packed house in the school’s football stadium, the 160 graduates heard speeches about taking pride in accomplishments, having courage and persevering.

Valedictorian Jared Long challenged his classmates to work their hardest at everything and to look at the bright side of life.

“A positive outlook on even the gloomiest of things can make all the difference and can inspire hope in someone who might need it the most,” Long said in his valedictory address.

Long’s presence on the podium should have been inspiring enough. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in sixth grade and has had multiple surgeries from that time on, with all of the tumor being removed just this past Thanksgiving. He was able to become valedictorian despite missing large chunks of school.

“I’ve had doctors’ appointmentments out the wazoo,” Long said. “I’ve had a couple of surgeries and missed some school and stuff. I missed 10th grade a little bit, like February to the end.”

He thanked his good friends, teachers, and administrators and especially his parents for believing in him. He also cited his faith in God with giving him the strength to cope.

It was also a special night for Dr. Sandra Carraway, finishing up her first year as Columbia County Schools Superintendent.

Carraway, a 1981 graduate of Harlem, gave her first commencement address as superintendent to her alma mater.

“It dawned on me driving over here that I graduated from this school and here I am standing before them as the leader of the school system,” said Carraway. “It was an awesome experience.”

Dalton Green, who signed a college baseball scholarship offer earlier in the day and thought it couldn’t get any better had changed his tune somewhat by the end of the commencement.

“It’s pretty even right now,” Green said.

While excited about being a graduate, Kaitlyn Cunningham called it a bittersweet moment.

“I’m nervous about what life holds,” said Cunningham. “Harlem’s a family. It’s sad we have to go our separate ways.”


Read about the winner and the finalists for this year’s Best & Brightest and who was honored as valedictorian or salutatorian.

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fatboyhog 05/24/14 - 10:33 am
Congratulations to the class of 2014!

Your hard work and perseverance has paid off. I hope that all of you will succeed in your future endeavors and that you will be a positive force for your community and your country.

nancidavis 05/27/14 - 06:10 pm
Congrats to the Harlem Class of 2014!

May you reach for the stars & catch them

ldegutes1 05/29/14 - 10:31 am
My grandson, John Grantham,

My grandson, John Grantham, graduated from Harlem, which hopefully, will be the beginning of a long educational experience. Bless all the graduates this year. Remember, this is just the beginning of a wonderful adventure in education and learning, not the end. We came from North Georgia for the wonderful occasion. Its great to watch your children graduate HS, but its extra special, when your grandchildren graduate HS. We love you very much John, and are so proud of your accomplishment. I had a flash of your life over the years, as you walked the stage, and can imagine the pride of the many parents, families, and grandparents, as everyone walked the stage to receive your diploma's. As my Dad once told me, remember, if you want something bad enough, than you'll find a way, no matter how difficult you might think your goals are in life. Please take advantage of the opportunities for education, because many of your grandparents and parents, didn't have the opportunity to go to higher education institutions. Find something you love to do in life, and it'll never seem like work, but a love. We are all so very proud of the accomplishments you have obtained in you life so far in education. Remember the love of your family follows you, wherever you go in life.

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