They did it. And they did it "in their own way," according to Bryan County High School Principal Crystal Morales as she sent 130 high school graduates off into the world Saturday morning.
In her send-off, Morales called it a privilege to get to know the students as she described the 2017 class as "headstrong," "independent" and "will do it their way."
"You do not have to worry, family and friends, about this class, because this class will lead the way and they are our future and they are remarkable, each in their own way," Morales said.
Motivational quotes read from the podium included ones from the Bible, Steve Jobs and Drake. But a teacher was called the greatest motivation for one student, even walking with the student while he received his diploma.
Graduate Fabeion Tatum had BCHS teacher, and newly appointed Bryan County Elementary School Assistant Principal Alison Holcolmbe by his side during the entire graduation.
Holcombe has been walking with him, in a sense, since the student was in second grade, his mother Karen Tatum explained in the foyer just before the ceremony. Her son has a medical condition that required the distict’s Homebound Services.
Mom Karen called Holcombe and her teaching "the best thing for him."
"She did not leave him or anything. She stayed with him all these years," she said.
Redskins were fired up and seemingly no one was without a proud grin as they walked across the stage to shake hands with Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher, school board members, and others. The audience mirrored the teens’ excitement, one family going as far as to wave huge face photos of graduate Kateleen Swaney from Savannah Civic Center stands.
Clutching flowers, balloons, and her cell phone after the ceremony, a "very happy," Swaney said the signs were a surprise.
She said she will attend East Georgia State College to study biology.
"I feel excited," Bruce Williams said, explaining his plans to get his commercial driver’s license and become a truck driver. "I congratulate everybody and wish everybody the best."
Justin Patterson took a pause from photos with family and friends to say he will continue his education at Ogeechee Technical College, even though high school was a "long four years."
"It was amazing, a big relief," Lydreyah Simmons said of the ceremony. Simmons is on her way to Mercer University to major in biomedical engineering after participating in the state’s Move On When Ready dual enrollment program. The program let her take college classes while still in high school.
"That was definitely hard, but it was all worth it in the end," Simmons said.
In his address, valedictorian Bradley Howard took his classmates down memory lane that included football games and water balloon fights. As they continue their journey, Howard encouraged the graduates to trust themselves and "do our own thing."
"To succeed in life, we must all trust ourselves to be the best version of us that we can be," he said. "Trust yourself. Be yourself. And when you look back at it, all your dots will connect."
Salutatorian Ashely Holton said she has known most of her classmates her entire life and encouraged everyone to "find happiness," and "accomplish their dreams."
"We have a lot of life left to live and it’s OK if we make mistakes. That’s what life’s about — learning from mistakes," Holton said.
Senior class Vice President Brett Kohler thanked family and teachers for their guidance and dedication.
"As we walked in today, we are high school seniors, but as we walk out, we are graduates, alumni of Bryan County High School," Kohler said.