Class of 2020 Makes Its Mark, Graduating In the Midst of Pandemic Challenges

Carson Reynolds
Courageous Class: North Atlanta Class of 2020 graduate Addahlikae Bernard was part of the school’s largest graduating class ever, with 505 members. On May 26, she received her diploma from Principal Curtis Douglass.

North Atlanta’s mighty Class of 2020. In the face of an interrupted academic year like no other in modern history, the Class of 2020 fittingly endured and strongly graduated on May 26, a noteworthy day they received their diplomas during a never-been-done-before diploma conferring ceremony.

The Class of 2020 is the school’s 29th graduating class. And with 505 members – nearly 70 more than the prior graduating cohort – the class was the school’s largest ever.

Like no prior class in the school’s history, the Class of 2020 was called upon to endure many challenges during its pandemic-impacted senior school year. For its members, their last day as students in the school building that housed them for the better part of four years was on Friday, March 13. And when remote education started on Monday, March 17, there were widespread hopes that after a short duration, seniors would return for those normative school-year patterns that mark a senior year. But as the global COVID-19 fears continued throughout the spring, hopes were dashed for a litany of events including senior prom, an in-school decision day, senior days for sports teams and the scheduled in-person graduation at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion. On account of the lingering power of the virus during the summer, a rescheduled graduation ceremony for the class scheduled for April 23 had to be postponed, as well.

But showing its flexibility – and even mustered good cheer – members of the class drove to campus for the May 26 diploma and yearbook-distribution event. Principal Curtis Douglass, Board of Education member Cynthia Briscoe Brown, and assorted North Atlanta faculty were on hand for the event as seniors and their proud parents pulled through the car-pool lane for a congratulatory handshake and a quick photo with Douglass.

The school’s principal spoke with admiration for a class that maintained hope and momentum in the face of unprecedented sacrifices. “For as long as this school exists, the Class of 2020 will be deeply honored,” said Douglass. “Not only were they an incredibly strong group academically and socially, not only were they collectively such great citizens and lively personalities, but also they had to endure about the biggest challenge any class can have thrown at it. And throughout they showed the grit and grace they are known for. I could not be any prouder of this class.”

For so many of the school’s Class of 2020, their academic journeys started during fall 2007 when they – under their parents’ watchful eyes — haltingly walked into their elementary schools as shy kindergartners. The journey that continued through elementary and middle school hit the proverbial “big time” when they entered North Atlanta in fall 2016 as wide-eyed freshman. “It seems pretty unreal that high school went by so quickly and for all of us it’s been an incredible time,” said senior Sterling Fleury. “Together we accomplished so much and I’m really proud of this class for how we kept our spirit alive, despite how the year ended up.”

Class members – never denying the disappointments of the things they missed out on – also said they focused on the big picture surrounding their high school years. “We were a very united class and that will always define the Class of 2020,” said senior Bailey Diamond. “It’s not just the big moments that mattered but the little moments in-between. Those car rides with friends, early morning breakfast runs, and inside jokes among our classmates. All in all, it was a great senior year.”

In the ranks of the Class of 2020 had one National Merit Scholarship finalists (Leighton Carpenter); four Posse Scholars (Shania Barker, Gabriela Oliveros, Maria Niño and Hasina-Chimeka Tisdale); four QuestBridge Scholarship finalists (Mikalya Ward, Leah Overstreet, along with twins Aubrey and Serena Miller); and three students who received appointments to U.S. military academies (Aubrey Miller: Air Force Academy; Brian Bird and Mya Mason; U.S. Naval Academy).

The Class of 2020’s Principal’s Cup winner was Malcolm Walker and the Warrior Scholar-Athlete winner was Isabel Archer. The AJC Cup Award recipient was Khadijat Kokumo and the Most Outstanding IB Learner was Anton Mertens. The class valedictorian, the student with the highest cumulative grade point average, was Emily Song. The class salutatorian, the student with the second highest GPA, was Soleil Golden. The class’s STAR student, the senior with the highest cumulative score on the SAT, was Ezra Midkiff. He nominated language arts teacher Erica Heirs as this year’s STAR Teacher. Both Song and Golden will attend Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., in the fall. Midkiff will attend the University of Georgia.

The noteworthy class racked up more than $22 million in academic grants and scholarships. More than 40 members of the class were admitted to the University of Georgia and more than 30 were admitted to Georgia Tech.

For a class that showed such excellence, there will remain in their school undimmed admiration among faculty, staff and administrators. “We are proud of them and they’ve certainly made their lasting mark as one of our strongest-ever classes,” said Jill Stewart, 12th grade assistant principal. “We will never forget the spirit, the bravery and the accomplishments of the Class of 2020.”