By Mariama Tyler Jenkins
Atlanta Public Schools hosted a special commencement ceremony to celebrate students from all its high schools who qualified for an APS high school diploma after Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 91 earlier this year. The new law retroactively eliminated previously required state graduation tests that were in place for Georgia high school graduating classes beginning with the APS class of 1985.
This means that former APS students who failed the tests can petition for a diploma from the Atlanta Board of Education instead of going through an extended waiver process with the Georgia State Board of Education. This bill will provide an estimated 9,000 Georgians with a high school diploma.
APS Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen described the graduation as a celebration of fairness, patience and the true value of the high school diploma in the marketplace today.
So many of these graduates had to look for work, for continuing education, for any life-lasting opportunities without a diploma in hand. “This group, perhaps more than any other gathering of high school graduates, truly appreciates and understands the worth of a high school diploma,” said Carstarphen.
Take a look at the newest Atlanta Public Schools graduates—some of whom have waited decades to graduate from high school. These graduates are to be commended for never giving up hope.
One of our graduates – Tanya McCree, Class of 2008 – says she studied and went to tutoring classes and took the graduation exams at least 10 times to no avail. She learned about the diploma recovery program from her great-grandmother, who told her she needed to close the door on this part of her education and apply for the diploma. Tanya followed her great-grandmother’s wisdom. Last night, she walked out on stage, and in June she plans to walk another stage as a graduate of Everest College with a degree as a medical assistant.
Pedro Ellis, Class of 1996 from Washington High School also took the exams many times, sometimes coming within one or two points of passing but never quite making it. He graduated with his family, his wife and with many classmates from high school – who I understand had a Class of 1996 homecoming shirt ready for him – in the audience. Most importantly, he wanted to graduate for his son, Pedro Ellis Jr., a student at Carver Early College. He persevered and is an example for his son.
Victoria Amos, Douglass High School, Class of 2014, can boast of a litany of awards in high school from outstanding JROTC cadet, honor roll, awards in biology and as a member of the dance team. Now she can add high school graduate to that list.
APS notified more than 500 former students who qualified for graduation as a result of the recently passed GA HB 91. Last evening, 138 graduates participated in the ceremony.
Congratulations APS Graduates. We are so proud of you!