Congratulations, Grad Nation APS Class of 2019!

It’s late on Friday at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion, and for the first time in five days, there’s almost complete silence.

Starting with graduation rehearsals about 108 hours ago, cheers, congratulatory shouts and celebratory music and songs began filling the arena and never let up until literally just moments ago. But now all of the members of Atlanta Public Schools’ Class of 2019 — nearly 2,500 of them cheered on by happy, teary-eyed parents, caregivers and other family members, as well as teachers, principals and friends — have left the building to begin their lives as graduates of Atlanta Public Schools.

Soon-to-be KIPP graduates demonstrating their “Work Hard. Be Nice!” motto as they prepare to walk.

This class amassed more than $154 million and counting in scholarship dollars, which includes the more than $17 million earned by more than 1,000 Achieve Atlanta Scholars to qualify each of them for up to $20,000 for four years of college. They are on track to complete more than 10,222 AP/IB/Dual Enrollment credits, which is 1,300 more than the Class of 2018 and nearly twice as many as the Class of 2015! And they scored in athletics with 18 region championships, 65 teams advancing to the state playoffs and six individuals and teams coming back with state championship trophies!

I am already starting to miss them, but I am so proud of each and every one of them. And I am bursting with pride because Operation Grad Nation, once again, was a huge success! #APSGrad19

The “dreamy” Nathaniel Ward of Grady High who raised us up with his beautiful singing voice

During Graduation Week, we truly live the mission of Atlanta Public Schools: Graduating students ready for college and career. And as those who have ever attended or viewed one of our ceremonies … NO ONE puts on graduation like APS! All 14 ceremonies were filled with so many beautiful moments when we saw our students – our community’s sons and daughters, grandchildren and godchildren, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, neighbors and friends – walk across the stage in their splendid school colors.

As we all came together as family to cheer our children – our newly minted graduates – into the future, it is rewarding to know that so many of these students worked so hard with some persevering against incredible challenges. No matter the circumstances or individual stories – and yes, there are more than 2,500 of them – they made it to the stage for graduation this week.

They represented everything we want to stand for at APS, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

But their work and their lives, have only begun. Indeed, the word “commencement” is a beginning, a start. Most members of the Class of 2019 have decided to continue their education in college or technical schools. I have no doubt they will excel there as they did in high school. Some students, with their high school diplomas in hand, are off to the workforce prepared to start their careers. Others have stepped up to the challenge of protecting our nation by joining the armed services, and we are so proud of their commitment to our country.  This is truly a beginning of the next chapter of the rest of their lives.

Whatever paths these graduates choose, I can only hope that they will take all of their lessons, experiences and friendships with them. But for now, I want them to take a moment to celebrate in the works and honors they have achieved.

We salute the Class of 2019 for a job well done! And thanks to our graduation team including Dr. Isaac Sparks, our graduation coaches, the high school principals, our student resource officers, the communications team and all of the volunteers for putting on another great program. And thank you to the members of the Atlanta Board of Education for their support.

For all of us, APS has provided many ways to relive the spirit of graduation. Of course, the first stop is to visit our main page at for archived video and media galleries of every ceremony. My APS colleagues and I have posted hundreds of images and videos on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. My handle is @carstarphenmj; the district’s is @apsupdate.

Also, I’ve collected a sampling of my favorite new memories and have shared them in the galleries below. Enjoy!

Again, congratulations to the graduates of the Class of 2019.

Atlanta Classical Academy, Saturday, May 18, 2019, Trinity Presbyterian Church

Charles R. Drew Charter, Saturday, May 18, Drew School Gymnasium

Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy/BEST Academy, Tuesday, May 21

KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, Tuesday, May 21

Schools of Carver, Wednesday, May 22

South Atlanta High School, Wednesday, May 22

Frederick Douglass High School, Wednesday, May 22

Grady High School, Thursday, May 23

Therrell High School, Thursday, May 23

Booker T. Washington High School, Friday, May 24

Alonzo A. Crim High School, Friday, May 24

Benjamin E. Mays High School, Friday, May 24

Maynard H. Jackson High School, May 24

North Atlanta High School, May 24

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