Everything about it was a perfect "10."
The Thomson High School Class of 2010 marched onto the field of the Brickyard Friday night, celebrated their accomplishments and received their graduation diplomas under clear skies.
The ceremony was postponed 30 minutes due to rain, but the clouds seemed to roll away just in time for commencement. The stadium was filled with an unusually reverent air as the crowd hushed and listened to the seven top students -- Sarah Kellogg, Haley Tam, Christian Usry, Aaron Washington (Valedictorian), Caitlin Burnside (STAR student), Drake Smallwood (Salutatorian) and Walker Barmore -- present their portion of the program.
"This achievement marks a new beginning in our lives," Drake said. "Tonight could be the very last time we see some of these faces. ... That is why we need to give our absolute best to whatever we do. ... Life is too short to wait. Why not attempt to stand out? Why not attempt to achieve what others said cannot be done? Personally, I want to continue to achieve, whether I live another five minutes, five hours, five days, five years or five decades."
Approximately 220 students marched across the stage to receive diplomas from Superintendent Jim LeBrun, Principal Rudy Falana, and Assistant Principals Mike Smallwood and Lynn Cato before shaking hands with each member of the Board of Education.
"I had them at Maxwell Elementary School when they started kindergarten," said Tammy Kay Brunson, a media specialist at Thomson High. "This is the best blessing ever, to have started out with them and now see them graduating."
It was those teachers who stuck with them that enabled many of the students to march across the stage.
"It was hard work and I was failing a lot of classes. But, the teachers were willing to work with me before and after school and everybody helped me. (Counselor Pat) Farner helped me a lot. It's exciting to graduate after almost failing," said Jose Granadas, adding that he plans to go to college and major in business.
The hushed atmosphere dissipated as small groups in the crowd cheered when graduates' names were called out. It became more like a traditional Friday night in the Brickyard after the ceremony ended and everyone joined the graduates for hugs and pictures.
"It's exciting, and I was ready for it," Jimmy Jones said. "The best thing was that so many people came to applaud me. My whole family came and lots of friends."
"Words cannot describe how I feel," said his mother, Cynthia Smith. "What a long road we've had. And, I'm extremely proud to be his mother. I'm just at a loss for words."
Jimmy said he already has a summer job lined up at Thiele Kaolin, and he has been accepted at Gainesville State College in the fall to play basketball.