Grovetown, Harlem grads make history

Emotion, appreciation mark ceremonies

Two Columbia County high schools made history in graduation ceremonies Saturday -- one marking a first and the other a milestone among many.

Trinity Bass, Grovetown High's first valedictorian and its first diploma recipient, said the significance of the moment nearly overwhelmed her.

"I had so many emotions running through me that, even though I tried not to, I started crying during my speech," said the 18-year-old, who is headed to the University of Georgia in the fall. "We've all worked so hard to get this, and we all know how important it is, that I just couldn't help myself."

For Gabriel Warner, 18, the entire school year was special, not just graduation day.

"As seniors, we were the ones who got to make the traditions," said Warner, who will attend Southern Polytechnic and State University in Marietta, Ga., after the summer break. "We set the standard, and I think we did it right."

In all, nearly 1,500 seniors from Grovetown, Harlem, Evans, Greenbrier and Lakeside high schools received diplomas in separate ceremonies at James Brown Arena.

Speeches delivered by school administrators and students focused mostly on the future. Harlem High's 143 graduates likely were the only ones looking back.

Though the school existed in the 1800s, it wasn't until June 1, 1910, that Harlem High conducted its first formal commencement with just two graduates: John Williamson and Nannie Violetta Whitaker.

A century later, Whitaker's great-grandson, James Hunt, received a diploma from her alma mater.

James, 17, said the significance of the moment wasn't lost on him.

"I do feel special to have that family background that not many, if any, other students have," said the future student of Young Harris College in north Georgia. "All of my family has graduated from Harlem. and we're very proud of that."

Madeline Price, another Harlem graduate, didn't know about the 100th anniversary until Saturday. She said learning of it made a momentous day even more special.

"I love being a part of history," said the 18-year-old, who plans to attend Asbury University in Kentucky. "In another 100 years, students will be remembering my class."

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