Every seat was filled at Pate Stadium Friday night as thousands of friends and family members came to watch the class of 2009 conclude their academic year. Those without seats lined fences around part of the field.
Nearly 400 seniors walked across the outdoor stage to receive diplomas from the principal of one of the systems' five high schools during the 90-minute ceremony.
"This is not an end but a beginning," Valedictorian Angela Ancheta said.
She told her classmates that, whether they are college-bound or entering the work force, they must be brave moving forward.
"Do not be afraid and allow the obstacles to stop us," Ancheta said.
Salutatorian Victoria Morrow told her classmates to remember their experiences with each other.
"Too often, these past four years were full of numbers we assume measure our worth as human beings," Morrow said. "From SAT scores, to final examine grades, to the number of tardies accumulated in your first period class, we are bombarded by figures and calculations that, in the grand scheme of life, don’t mean much. The numbers that do matter are the ones that can’t be quantified: you can’t count the number of times you laughed so hard you almost cried on lunch, cannot gauge the worth of the countless conversations that took place in the hallways and commons, in the parking lot or on the playing field."
Retiring Superintendent Shirley Prince was honored with a brief speech and presented with a bouquet of roses.
The largest graduating class was from the School of Health and Sciences, with 96 graduates. The School of Performing Arts had 90 graduates, the School of Business, Finance and Marketing had 59 graduates, the School of Leadership and Public Service had 84 graduates and the School of Math, Science and Technology had 66 graduates.
Graduation was briefly interrupted as a series of fireworks were launched from a nearby field. Captain Kim Monroe, LPD, said that there will be no investigation into the display.
After the ceremony, the graduates headed off the field — as the sun set — with Prince in the lead.