Photo by Loralee Beard, Magic Moment Photography

It’s that time again in Gwinnett
By Loralee Beard, Magic Moment Photography

I used to understand when people dreaded graduations but I find I like them more and more which is a lucky break for that week in late May when we photograph several a day in the space of a week.

One point of interest is what makes each of us cry from year to year.  Photographer Meredith Chastain found herself crying during the Pledge of Allegiance which meant she cried a lot this season. This year, I was overwhelmed when Peachtree Ridge Band Director Andy Edwards directed the PRHS Jazz band in playing Georgia on My Mind.  I have heard the song many, many times, yet it was as if I had never felt it before. 

The warm community feel of Lanier High School is characterized by Officer Rolando Jimenez. In February 2013, Officer Jimenez was nearly killed when hit by one car and thrown under the wheels of another while directing after school traffic. His very long road to recovery is one he barely remembers. One day while he was in Joan Glancy Medical Center, isolated from everyone but medical staff and immediate family,  a student, Taylor Dilbeck and her Mother managed to visit his room. Officer Jimenez was not conscious but the young woman and her mother decided to buy him religious charms, which he later in his recovery he wore around his neck. Months later when he asked where the items came from, he finally met Taylor and her parents who he now considers “like family”. 

While photographing a special Senior Day at Discovery High School, I discovered a new instant family for myself - the Dennis’.  Grandma Linda traveled from Pittsburg to visit her daughter Rhonda Dennis but the Main attraction was to witness the graduation of granddaughter Alexus.  I noticed that the Dennis family is funny, attractive and willing to give me my own room if I move in with them.  They have no pets but said I can bring any I want as long as they stay in my room.  


Another late Spring ritual is the Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame dinner.  This year’s honorees were Cliff Ramos - Collins Hill High School, Wrestling Coach, Brittany Rogers-Mayweather; Dacula High School, Softball Athlete,  Coach Mike Emery; District Athletic Director. (Front Row L-R): Jocelyn Penn; Meadowcreek High School, Basketball Athlete Juan Daniels; Norcross High School, Football athlete. 

Tysha and Chris Blalock and their children have been an integral part of Grayson sports for a long time and while one son graduated from Grayson High School recently, father Chris continues to coach the younger family members including the 10 and under traveling Rams who have played together for 6 years. The team is shown shortly before heading to the 2016 Ripken Experience Tournament in Myrtle Beach, SC. 

History teacher Johnny Griffin of Central Gwinnett High School is retiring this year.  I don’t know him well and yet I was not surprised he was a finalist last year for Gwinnett County “Teacher of the Year”.  The power of positivity is on display with Mr. Griffin at all times.  A testimony to this is his ability to have one of the largest tennis teams in the county year after year comprised of what seems to be an almost entirely rookie group. At the retirement, references were made to his acting ability and I hope he pursues this.

I have known Kevin Schatell, (Mountain View High School Class of 2012, Salutatorian, University of Georgia Class of 2016, President of the state Student Council) since he was a toddler.  Therefore I have thrilled at his many accomplishments over the past many years. He was recently selected to be an NBC Page in New York City where he will lead tours and assist with production and public relations for shows such as Saturday Night Live and the Tonight Show. Quoting from my personal favorite source, Wikipedia. “The NBC Universal Page Program” accepts around 1.5 percent of applicants, making it harder to get into the program than gain acceptance into Harvard.” 

Kevin always makes his next step with class, which is why he borrowed my husband’s best 1970 suitcase complete with Vintage Priority sticker to hit the big Apple.

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