Finally converging on Cedartown Memorial Stadium for their graduation ceremony, the Cedartown High School class of 2020 was tasked with remembering their past while thinking about their future.
The event, which was held Saturday, June 27, brought about an official end to the school year for the school’s nearly 300 graduates after the COVID-19 pandemic caused school leaders to make some tough decisions that altered how the final three months of it went.
“To say it has been a unique year would be a huge understatement,” Principal Scott Hendrix said during his message. “The class of 2020 is a unique, diverse group that contains a variety of strengths, skills and personalities.”
Hendrix mentioned that out of the group of graduates, more than 120 of them are honor graduates, while 10 of them completed an associate degree while attending classes. Around 90% of Cedartown’s class of 2020 completed Georgia Department of Education Pathways and several were awarded athletic scholarships.
“Excellence can be found in abundance in the class of 2020,” he said.
Hendrix asked the graduates to think back to where their education journey began by referencing the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” which includes lessons like share everything, play fair, don’t hit other people and clean up your mess.
“I think if we follow a few of these things, we would all be better people,” he said.
Salutatorian Kristi Reid looked back on the different times she had while attending Cedartown High School during her address, from her first day as a freshman to the last few months of going to class before the shutdown.
“Although our last year was cut short, I realize how many memories and funny experiences we were able to share with each other,” Reid said. “In August, the day of the Senior Sunrise, we had no idea what our last year of high school would hold. Although we did not have as many days at school as we thought, we made the most of the ones we had together.”
Her twin sister, Chloe Reid, talked about what the teachers, family and friends had meant to the graduates as she opened her valedictorian address.
“This celebration is not to honor what we have accomplished on our own because it has always been a collaborative effort,” she said.
She discussed how the quick change in how the graduates’ final year will help them as future plans, no matter what they are, will change at some point.
“When life does not go our way, and we know it will not at times, we can have faith in the future. No matter what obstacles are in front of us we have the power to turn our lives around and achieve the goals we have set for ourselves,” she said.
Despite the unorthodox way their high school careers ended, repeated sentiments during the graduation ceremony of the Rockmart High School class of 2020 were thankfulness and the opinion they had been the school’s most celebrated senior class.
With almost all 222 graduates attending the delayed commencement ceremony Friday, June 26, there were still moments to cherish and worth celebrating for those who came. Social distancing and health precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic limited each graduate to four family members each.
“I’m sure many of you wondered if this day was ever going to come,” Principal Robyn Teems said during her message to the audience. “We’re only 36 days late.”
March 12 marked the final day of classes for Polk School District students as instruction and assignments transitioned online for the remainder of the school year. Normal events that signal the end of school for seniors were canceled, however some were created to recognize their accomplishments.
Rockmart’s graduating class includes 87 honor graduates and 11 who graduate with an associate degree. Teems said the class’s achievements in the classroom and on the athletic field prove their diligence and desire to keep working.
“This class is strong. Most were born in the aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11,” Teems said. “Now this group of great people is becoming adults and getting ready to leave home and be independent during COVID-19. These guys are our hope. They are our future and they really prove that apparently nothing is capable of stopping the class of 2020.”
Valedictorian Malorie Bradfield in her address noted all of the changes that have happened during the lives of her and her fellow classmates, from living in a post-9/11 world to seeing school nutrition change to mourning the losses of teachers.
“We never got to celebrate with a trip to Six Flags, or go to the elementary schools to show the future classes of RHS how hard work and perseverance turns into a cap and a gown,” Bradfield said. “To this day, prom dresses still have tags on them, and here we are, graduating a month and four days after the 2019-2020 school calendar had promised.”
Salutatorian Sarah Adair spoke about all of the things the class had seen Rockmart High School accomplish and recognized how loved ones and teachers helped them get to this point.
“All of us have grown into our own and developed into the adults you see before you. But without the support of everyone here and those of you at home watching, we would not be here,” Adair said.
The ceremony was live streamed on the Polk School District’s Facebook page for anyone who was not able to attend, and a handful of people stood outside the fence along the north end zone of the stadium.
The organizer of a rally calling for justice in the death of a Cedartown man said she plans on continuing her efforts until she feels her demands are satisfied.
Beverly Hamilton, of Rockmart, took to Facebook to plan the peaceful rally, which took place Saturday, June 27, in front of Polk County Courthouse No. 1. The cause behind the rally stems from the circumstances surrounding the death of Eric Keais last September.
The 38-year-old was hit by a vehicle driven by Ralph “Ryan” Dover III while riding his bicycle on North Main Street across from the Dollar General Market in Cedartown around 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 11.
According to a report from Polk County Coroner Tony Brazier, Dover called attorney and state Rep. Trey Kelley and not 911. After Kelley arrived and looked over Dover’s vehicle, he then called Cedartown Police Chief Jamie Newsome to send an officer out to see what Dover had hit.
It was more than an hour before Keais was discovered by a Cedartown police officer and rushed to the hospital, where he died while medical personnel fought to save his life.
The rally came together within a week and local law enforcement was on hand. Hamilton said she intends to continue holding rallies until she feels justice is served.
So far Dover has not been officially charged with any crime and has not been arrested in relation to the incident. Jack Browning, district attorney for the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit which includes Polk County, had intended to bring the case to the grand jury in March but the start of the COVID-19 pandemic halted all judicial proceedings.
A recent extension of the statewide judicial emergency order by Chief Justice Harold Melton of the Georgia Supreme Court will keep the courts shuttered until at least July 13 with scheduling of cases and grand juries to follow reopening.
Hamilton said while she did not know Keais, she felt compelled to speak out on his behalf and call for justice to be served.
“We demand justice and we demand those involved to step down from their position,” Hamilton said while holding signs among a group of about 10 people Saturday afternoon.
“We are a small crowd now but we will not be silent,” Hamilton said. “We won’t give up. We won’t walk away from it until justice is served.”
Cedartown resident Lisa Stewart spoke during the early moments of the two-hour rally, calling for those who have spoken out in frustration over the case on Facebook and other social media sites to not be scared and step out in public to let their voices be heard.
Tallapoosa Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Meng Lim was arrested last week and charged with battery under the Georgia Family Violence Act following an investigation by the GBI.
Lim, 48, became the first-ever Asian American Superior Court judge in Georgia when he was elected in 2014. He ran unopposed in 2018.
He faces one count of misdemeanor battery after the Haralson County Sheriff’s Office contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about an allegation of physical domestic abuse involving Lim at his residence on Feb. 17.
According to a release from the GBI:
During the course of the investigation, it was determined that on Feb. 17 the Haralson County Sheriff’s Office received a telephone call concerning an allegation of physical domestic abuse involving Lim.
The investigation also indicated that Lim’s wife had contacted a friend, who lives in Bremerton, Washington, on Feb. 16 and told her about being hit multiple times by Lim during an argument. Lim’s wife also sent her friend pictures of her face showing bruising and scratching.
The argument reportedly started after Lim became upset about his stepson being on his cell phone playing games and not completing his chores. The incident also involved another minor child who lives in the residence.
The GBI investigation has been completed and the case turned over to the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
According to the Haralson County Sheriff’s Office, Lim was arrested Thursday, July 2, around 5 p.m. and was released shortly after on $1,000 bond. No further information surrounding his arrest was available as of press time Friday.
Polk County is part of the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit, which also includes Haralson County.
Prior to immigrating to the U.S., Lim and his family were Cambodian refugees living in China. They found visa sponsorship through Jewish Family and Career Services of Atlanta and settled in Bremen.
The Rockmart Farmers Market is back in business, though with social distancing and sanitation guidelines in effect. Come take part in the market on Waters Street in downtown Rockmart on Thursdays starting at 2 p.m. Find weekly updates about available produce and more at facebook.com/rockmartfarmersmarkert.
Rockmart Cultural Arts Center’s Juried Art Show is underway at the Rockmart Art Gallery, continuing through Aug. 6, 2020. A reception and Awards ceremony is planned from 4 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 1. For more information call 770-684-2707 or 770-231-9094.
The Arts Reignited Arts Exhibit is coming up after having to re-schedule the annual exhibit and gala that was postponed. The “A Night with Local Artists” Gala is now being held for the exhibit starting later this summer on Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Skellenger Gallery at the Cedartown Performing Arts Center. More than 200 works of art will be available for view, and guests will have the opportunity to enjoy live music, wine, and an opportunity to engage in coversation with artists. Find more at Cedartownshows.com.
Gospel in the Mountains will be July 11 from 12 to 6 p.m. at 75 Cross Road in Ellijay. For more information or directions call 706-671-7988.
The 8th Annual Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Georgia Polk County Golf Tournament will be Aug. 21 at Cherokee Golf and Country Club in Cedartown. Check in begins at 8 a.m. with a shotgun start at 9 a.m. Lunch and awards will follow. For more information and to register online visit www.bgcnwga.org.
The Sterling Holloway Hunny Pot Festival is making a 2020 return, schedueld for Sept. 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Big Spring Park in Cedartown. The second annual celebration of Cedartown native Sterling Holloway, the original voice of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh, will be a fun-filled day designed around the iconic yellow bear. Check out cedartowngeorgia.gov for more information as the festival date draws closer.
The Spooky Spokes Bike Ride and Halloween Village is being planned for Oct. 17 from 4 to 7 p.m. at 605 Lynton Drive. This is not your typical trunk or treat. In fact, there are no trunks, only good-old fashioned fun. Join us for seasonal kids’ activities, hay ride, a costume contest, bike ride and more! Keep up with event updates on cedartowngeorgia.gov.
Market on Main is coming up this fall on Nov. 7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in downtown Cedartown. The annual festival on Main Street will showcase a variety of vendors, along with the annual parade, dog contest, kid’s activities, food and more. Visit Cedartowngeorgia.gov to find updates on Market on Main.
The Northwest Georgia Center for Independent Living holds a COVID-19 Peer Support call every Monday at 2 p.m. via the Zoom website and by phone. For the link and password, or if you need assistance, contact Christina Holtzclaw at 628-246-1825 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NWGA Center for Independent Living is offering free Personal Protection CARE Kits to people with disabilities who live in Northwest Georgia. The kits include three face masks, two disposable thermometers, give pair of gloves and alcohol wipes. To request a kit and become a consumer, contact the center at 706-314-0008 or email@example.com.
Milltown Music Hall has information on shows that are being scheduled for this summer at milltownmusichall.com.
Want to get your event or announcement on the calendar? E-mail JStewart@polkstandardjournal.com.
Want to get your event or announcement on the calendar? E-mail JStewart@polkstandardjournal.com.
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