Graduation Week Kicks Off With 2019 “Visions of the Future”

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“We did it!” So said senior Sonya Dannenberg, a student speaker at North Atlanta’s 2019 “Visions of the Future” which was held on May 17. The annual baccalaureate always event kicks off Graduation Week at North Atlanta High School. Dannenberg was speaking on behalf of her fellow 2019 high school graduates from Atlanta Public Schools’ largest high school. And with 437 graduates, the Class of 2019 stands as the school’s largest-ever graduating class.

Visions, held in the school gymnasium, features graduates in full regalia who process into their seats to the dignified strands of Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.” The dignified event let 2019 graduates celebrate their accomplishments in a “home turf” setting a week in advance of the official class’ graduation ceremony, which was on May 24 at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.

Another Visions speaker, senior Sarah Hetzel, touched upon the momentousness of any high school student’s unforgettable graduation week. “How exhilarating but also how incredibly frightening,” Hetzel said.

The speaker for this year’s Visions was Ben Spears, a North Atlanta Class of 2001 graduate who currently serves as a senior program associate in the Conflict Resolution Program at the Carter Center in Atlanta. In his speech, Spears reflected on his years in high school, the fun hijinks he had with teammates on the varsity soccer team, and specifically the challenges he encountered as a student in the school’s rigorous International Baccalaureate program. Spears gave the graduates some core points of wisdom that he succinctly broke down into five guiding principles: 1) Build a community of good people; 2) Root for something; 3) Read throughout your lifetime; 4) Prepare relentlessly for life’s opportunities; and 5) When things go wrong, persevere.

He said he credits the school’s IB program for preparing him for tougher challenges that were in store for him as he navigated college along with the professional and personal lives that followed. With affection he cited his IB history teacher John Yeargin who taught classes in a college-like lecture format that forced students to pay attention and take notes. “As I look back on my years at North Atlanta, I guess I can say it was tough, but it certainly was a good tough,” Spears said.

After Visions, the school’s PTSA sponsored a reception on the Hillside patio. Those gathered for the reception streamed across the wide expanse for cake, pastries and refreshments. Photos were taken, hugs were exchanged and the visions of a bright future for the members of the Class of 2019 were clearly seen by all.

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