Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Rae Nguyen, right, hugs fellow graduate Meghan Shrope after the Mountain View commencement ceremony at the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Saturday. Ninety seniors walked for their diplomas, marking the school's first-ever graduating class.
DULUTH -- The first half of Mountain View High School's class of 2010 motto reads, "Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice."
For the inaugural graduating class from the first-year high school in Lawrenceville, the selection from early American politician William Jennings Bryan couldn't be more fitting.
Most of the 96 classmates that graduated Saturday morning at Gwinnett Arena in Duluth had the choice -- stay at whichever of the three area schools they started at (Collins Hill, Dacula and Mill Creek), or come to Mountain View and start anew.
They all made the same choice.
"Some came willingly, and some came reluctantly," salutatorian Samantha Shaw said in her address to her classmates, "but we all came because we were meant to be Mountain View Bears."
The obvious downfall of leaving a school for a senior year elsewhere is parting with old friends, old teachers and old ways. There's the fear of starting all over again when it should be more like a victory lap.
But for the 96 students that graduated Saturday, that was an upside -- starting anew, making new friends and, especially in Gwinnett County, getting a more intimate learning experience.
"The halls were so crowded and everything," said Chris Mink, who spent his first three years at Mill Creek High School in Hoschton. "I knew everybody, but it wasn't really as personable as it could be because it was so big."
"I just wanted to start over," he added. "I just wanted to maybe have a fresh start, meet some new people and try and become more involved with my school. I'm very happy with my decision. I wanted a change of pace between the big school and the smaller school."
If similar situations in Gwinnett are any indication, Mountain View won't stay small long -- after similar beginnings, Peachtree Ridge's second graduating class in 2004 was more than 500 students. Its 2010 class approached 800.
Mill Creek, the school Mink mentioned, graduated its first class in 2004. It's now the largest school in Georgia.
With that said, all that mattered Saturday was the students on the arena floor, Mountain View's first graduating class.
"As the inaugural class of Mountain View High School, our class has made the right choices thus far," valedictorian Brittney Blakely said in her address. "The fact that all of us made the move to Mountain View is one of the good choices we have made. Our class has set the precedent and standard of excellence for future classes."
Blakely will forever be the first to graduate at the top of a Mountain View senior class, and Shaw is the school's first-ever salutatorian. Those two, Mahdi Hillou, Michael McMillan, Harry Lara and Douglas Rashard Brown will be remembered as the school's first six honors graduates.
Brent Tisdale will always be Mountain View's first recipient of the Senior Inspirational Teacher award.
As principal Keith Chaney put it Saturday morning, "We've had a year of firsts, and this is our last first."