Grads show their colors

Michael Holahan/Staff
R.J. Bigby, of Hephzibah High School, adjusts his tassel during the reception for Bungalow Road Alternative School graduates.

Shedding their black and white uniforms, marks of the Richmond County alternative school, 14 seniors instead donned the vibrant caps and gowns of their respective schools.

Bungalow Road Alternative School, with its reputation for housing students with discipline problems, displayed its academic achievements Wednesday during its honors night.

With the playing of Pomp and Circumstance, the 14 graduating seniors processed into the school's lunchroom that was filled with hundreds of people, including representatives of national, state and local government.

"I'm proud of myself," Patrick Brown, a 17-year-old Laney High School honor graduate, said. "I turned my life around. I'm able to graduate with my class."

Only months earlier, Patrick skipped school chronically, so much so that he was assigned to the alternative school to finish his last year of school.

But on Wednesday night, he was all smiles as he stood taking pictures with his teachers and others who had pushed him back in the right direction.

"They kept me strong to get through this," Patrick said.

He plans to attend Voorhees College, where he will study business administration on his way to starting his own fashion line.

"Here we try to teach them everyone who stumbles doesn't fall," said Principal Thomas Norris, whose pride for his students' accomplishments was clear on his face and through his fervor.

"It's not the money. It's not the titles. It's when kids like this get what they want to get," he said. "Sometimes it takes years, but ooh whee, talk about something sweet."

Among the students who spoke at honors night was John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School's Elizabeth Doss, who recalled her first day at the alternative school. Her teacher could tell she wanted to break into tears, but she stood proudly Wednesday as she delivered parting remarks to the Class of 2008, telling of her plans to major in theater at Augusta State University.

"Just because this is an alternative school doesn't mean that everything and everyone in it is bad," she said.

Wednesday night was also used to celebrate the achievements of the county's evening school, from which 32 students are graduating.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.