Commencement Marks End of High School Journey for Class of 2019

Power Trio: Clarke Peoples, Katherine Atkinson and Devon Gates are among the standouts for North Atlanta’s Class of 2019. Peoples, this year’s AJC Cup winner and a Gates Scholarship recipient, will attend Columbia University. Atkinson will attend Boston University. Gates will attend both Harvard University and the Berklee College of Music under a joint school program. All three graduates received full-ride academic scholarships.

A senior year of high school is laden with many significant days. But no day is more significant than a scholar’s last one – high school commencement. The joyous event is far more than an opportunity for friends and family to celebrate a beloved child’s accomplishment. For each student who dons the mortar board and gown, graduation is the final punctuation mark in a 12-year-long educational process that sees them grow from small child to a mature young adult.

More than 3,500 people crowded in Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion on May 24 to witness and celebrate the graduation ceremony for North Atlanta High School, the largest secondary school within Atlanta Public Schools. The Class of 2019 is the school’s 28th graduating class. And with 437 students, this year’s graduating class was the school’s largest ever.

During the ceremony, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, District 4 APS board member Nancy Meister, District 8 at-large board member Cynthia Briscoe Brown and other board members were on hand to congratulate the graduates and certify their diplomas. North Atlanta Principal Curtis Douglass read the long list of accomplishments that the seniors achieved both individually and collectively.

In its ranks, the Class of 2019 has a Posse Scholar (Samaira Wilson), a Gates Scholarship recipient (Clarke Peoples), a QuestBridge Scholarship recipient (Sherman Golden), one student who received an appointment from a U.S. military academy (Sarah Hetzel: Air Force Academy) and eight National Merit Scholarship finalists (Noah Behan-Sahib, Jake Churchill, Thomas Contis, Avery Culp, Quint Gfroerer, Ethan Roman, Kimberly Wennerholm, Evan Zappa).

The Class of 2019’s Principal’s Cup winner was Devon Gates and the Warrior Scholar-Athlete winner was Andrew Sheldon. The AJC Cup Award recipient was Clarke People and the Most Outstanding IB Learner was Mac Bloodworth. The class valedictorian, the student with the highest cumulative grade point average, was Quint Gfroerer. The class salutatorian, the student with the second highest GPA, was Thomas Contis. Also recognized at the ceremony was STAR student Jake Churchill, the senior with the highest cumulative score on the SAT. Churchill, who scored a perfect 1,600 score on the SAT, nominated fine art teacher Adam Brooks as this year’s STAR Teacher. Gfroerer will attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., in the fall. Both Contis will attend Churchill will attend college at Georgia Tech.

Drew Sheldon, a decorated student-athlete and this year’s Warrior Scholar-Athlete winner, summed up the feelings that likely most of his peers experienced as they experienced their commencement. “All of our lives, ever since we were just kids there was always a ‘next year,’” he said. “‘Next year I’ll be in middle school. Next year I’ll be in high school. Next year I’ll be a sophomore, or a junior, or a senior.’ Now, with this event, we realize that this – this moment here – is the end of that process. This year is that year. This year is “next year.”

In total the members of North Atlanta’s Class of 2019 have been awarded nearly $31 million in academic grants and scholarships to attend colleges across the country. Students in this noteworthy class will attend Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, Georgia College and State University, Georgia State University, Georgia Southern University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Valdosta State University, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and Agnes Scott College, among other Georgia Schools.

North Atlanta 2019 graduates will attend the University of Florida, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Alabama, Auburn University, University of Tennessee, University of South Carolina, Clemson University, University of Mississippi, University of Kentucky, College of Charleston, Wake Forest University, Tulane University, Vanderbilt University,

the University of Virginia, Columbia University, Seton Hall University, Howard University, Harvard University, New York University, St. John’s University, Georgetown University, Temple University, Syracuse University, the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Texas, University of Arizona, University of Southern California, University of Denver, University of San Francisco, and the University of San Diego, among other schools.

During the graduation ceremony, when all diplomas were distributed and all graduates were certified, it was Principal Curtis Douglass who was the first to present the school’s newest graduating class to the world. And it was Douglass who offered thoughts on the bittersweet nature of any commencement day.  “Nothing ever fully prepares us to say goodbye to our students and that parting is even harder this year when we see such an accomplished class like this one move on,” Douglass said. “But our sadness is tinged with joy because we know this incredible group is so obviously equipped for success in life. Now we get to sit back and see the many awesome things that will be accomplished by the Class of 2019.”