CONYERS — With temperatures hovering in the low 90s, a blue sky above and a light breeze blowing, an exuberant crowd of friends and families cheered as members of the Salem Class of 2019 accepted their diplomas.

Guest attendance was heavily weighted toward the shady side of Seminole Stadium Wednesday, and hand fans depicting the faces of graduates were a hot commodity. T-shirts bearing slogans like “Proud G-Ma of a 2019 graduate” along with a graduate’s photo were popular graduation attire.

In a special moment during Wednesday’s commencement exercises at Salem’s football stadium, Principal Tonya Bloodworth was presented with an honorary diploma recognizing her 10 years of service to the Salem community.

In another singular moment, the parents of Shakevia Harris accepted their daughter’s diploma to loud cheers from the other graduates. Harris was unable to attend Wednesday’s ceremony due to injuries sustained in an auto accident, and the Seminole family was asked to pray for her.

Salutatorian Jordan Newton called on her classmates to make the most of their education.

“As this chapter closes, I want our class to realize that we have been given a gift that is our education — and the opportunity to pursue a higher education as well,” said Newton. “These are privileges we must take full advantage of, not just for ourselves but for those who have come before us and those who will come after.”

Newton plans to attend Augusta University and major in biology.

Valedictorian Emily Mahabir encouraged fellow graduates to continue to strive for excellence.

“We’ve created so many memories the past four years, but today is a turning point in our lives, and now we’re ready to go on,” she said. “We have learned, laughed, loved, and yes — gotten into trouble, and most of all matured together. As we move on from here, I want you to remember: You’re worth it, and never settle for anything less.

“It is not by mere accident or coincidence that we experienced remarkable accomplishments. It has been the result of our ambition to do our personal best: to persist, to persevere and to perfect ourselves.”

Mahabir plans to attend the University of Georgia where she will major in public health.

The Salem Class of 2019 has been offered more than $2.8 million in scholarships. Ten of the graduates earned the summa cum laude designation, achieving a GPA of 3.9 or greater. Nine graduated magna cum laude, with a GPA of 3.7 to 3.89, and 15 graduated cum laude, with a GPA of 3.5 through 3.69.


I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.