Marching On: Record-Sized North Atlanta Class of 2023 Graduates to Next Life Chapters

Graduations are pivotal life events – milestones that mark the closing of one life chapter and the opening of another. On May 26, all 564 members of North Atlanta’s Class of 2026 graduated from inside Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion. The class – the school’s largest graduating class ever – is North Atlanta’s 32nd graduating class. North Atlanta was founded in 1991, when two of its institutional predecessors – Northside High School and North Fulton High School – merged. North Atlanta is the largest high school within Atlanta Public Schools.

Attending the significant event were APS Superintendant Lisa Herring; members of the APS Board, including District 4 board member Jennifer McDonald, who represents the North Atlanta cluster; North cluster feeder school principals; North Atlanta principal Curtis Douglass, school administrators and counselors, along with many school faculty members and staff.

During the ceremony, the graduates heard remarks from Herring, McDonald, and from Class of 2023 valedictorian Catherine Zappa and salutatorian Benjamin Song. In his address, Song encouraged his fellow graduates to savor the moments connected to graduation – even in the face of ongoing temptations for only future goal-setting. “Enjoy where you are. Right here. Right now. Instead of obsessing about the future, let’s live in the present and enjoy every moment, because this life only happens once,” Song said.

In her comments, Zappa reminded her classmates about the noteworthy paths they all encountered in their four years of high school, a journey that started during the 2019-20 school year, when all members of the Class of 2023 class – during their freshman year – were sent home on May 13 of that year in the wake of a global COVID 19 pandemic. The group endured more than a year of remote education – and other challenges – in their journey toward graduation. Now, Zappa reminded, they had to face the uncertainties associated with concluding high school. “My life and my identity have been so centered around high school academics that it’s scary to leave North Atlanta. But, it’s also exciting,” she said.

Several members of the class were named as recipients of significant awards: Randolph Smith received the Coca Cola Golden Helmet award, which recognizes high school athletes and high character and strong academic achievement; Zuri Vallery was named as a recipient of a 2023 Gates Scholarship; Dash Wang was named as a Posse Scholarship recipient, a four-year, full-ride college academic scholarship; Song was honored for receiving a National Merit Scholarship; Lachlan MacLean was honored for his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy; Zappa along with Ansley Miller were honored as the Class of 2023 STAR students, named for achieving the highest scores on the SAT; Ella Kaufman and Will Langley were honored at the most outstanding IB learners; Sarah Ann Hamilton and Sumner Kirsch received the Warrior Scholar-Athlete award; Karen Palacios was named the classes’ AJC Cup recipient , an award that goes to the student who best embodies academic excellence, leadership, community service and extra-curricular involvement;  Dylan Walker received the Principal’s Cup, an award for the student who best exemplifies the values that North Atlanta upholds.

The school’s largest-ever graduating class has received significant interest from outside post-secondary interests. Class members were awarded more than $42 million in grants and scholarships from colleges and universities across the country.

After APS board member McDonald stepped forward on the podium to certify class members as North Atlanta graduates, and after Benjamin Lopez led his classmates from the stage in the moving of their tassels from right to left, the Class of 2023 could mark that they were North Atlanta High School graduates. Before a large assembly of family and friends who packed McCamish Pavilion, Principal Douglass could say to all the assembled: “I present to you the Class of 2023 graduates of North Atlanta High School!”

On May 26, each of the graduates concluded a 12-year-long educational journey, a lengthy path that took each student from being a small child up to a celebratory graduation march as a young adult. With that march across a stage in Midtown Atlanta, one noteworthy life chapter was over, and a new life chapter of accomplishment and unlimited promise had now commenced.