A screenshot of Lauren Hester, valedictorian of Coretta Scott King Young Women's Leadership Academy in Atlanta, as she gives a speech in an empty gym during a video celebrating graduation.
Photo: Atlanta Public Schools on Facebook 
Photo: Atlanta Public Schools on Facebook 

First virtual Atlanta grad celebration attracts hundreds of online viewers, well wishes

Hundreds of viewers watched on Facebook as Atlanta Public Schools broadcast the first of 14 virtual graduation celebrations on Monday. 

The coronavirus pandemic prompted the district to postpone in-person graduation ceremonies until July or possibly later, depending on when health officials say it is safe to gather. 

But for seniors who would have crossed the stage this month, the district on Monday began broadcasting a series of video celebrations. APS kicked off the online events with a one-hour video tribute to graduates of Coretta Scott King Young Women's Leadership Academy.

The pre-recorded video included a documentary-style introduction with footage and photos of marching bands, TikTok dances, theater performances, football games, pep rallies and coronavirus food distributions. 

Hundreds of viewers tuned in to watch, posting nearly a thousand comments and well wishes throughout the video.

Short, pre-recorded speeches from half a dozen of the academy’s students were featured, as well as greetings from the principal, counselor and school board member Erika Mitchell. 

The school’s valedictorian, Lauren Hester, wore a “seniors” T-shirt as she spoke at a podium in an empty gymnasium. 

“We made it here together, unified as a family sharing a common goal of achievement and success,” she told viewers. 

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen read portions of a letter she wrote to graduates. 

“You were starting seventh grade when I first met you — little middle schoolers that have now grown up into beautiful and compelling young men and women. It is you who give me the heart and the passion to do this work,” she said. 

Nearly 400 viewers watched live on Facebook at one point, and by the time the video ended, it had been viewed thousands of times, according to the social media site’s metrics. 

The district has more virtual graduation celebrations planned this week. See here for a full schedule of Atlanta high school virtual celebrations.

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