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North's class of 2012 called most educated in GCPS history

In this 2012 file photo, North Gwinnett senior Chrystal Ferreira, left, celebrates while turning her tassel during the North Gwinnett High School commencement at Coolray Field.

In this 2012 file photo, North Gwinnett senior Chrystal Ferreira, left, celebrates while turning her tassel during the North Gwinnett High School commencement at Coolray Field.

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In this 2012 file photo, North Gwinnett senior Chrystal Ferreira, left, celebrates while turning her tassel during the North Gwinnett High School commencement at Coolray Field.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Seniors graduate from North Gwinnett High School during their commencement at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville on Friday. NGHS is the first school to hold their graduation ceremony at Coolray Field.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Senior Sarah Mitchell from North Gwinnett High School waves to her family during the commencement at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville on Friday. NGHS is the first school to hold their graduation ceremony at Coolray Field.

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Gwinnett Daily Post, File Photo

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Principal Ed Shaddix called the nearly 600 seniors that graduated Friday "the most successful class in the history of North Gwinnett High School."

In his own comments, county Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks went even further, dubbing it "the most educated class in the history of Gwinnett County Public Schools."

A four-star general called them, collectively, "a wonder."

All high praise, and probably not hyperbole either.

In total, the class earned more than $11 million in scholarships (not including HOPE). An estimated 95 percent have plans for post-secondary education. There were 220 honors graduates, making up more than one-third of the senior class.

An astounding 83 percent of the group that received its diplomas Friday morning at Coolray Field took at least one Advanced Placement class and passed the subsequent exam, giving them college credit. Outside of the classroom, the class of 2012 accumulated more than 50,000 documented hours of community service.

That's not including playing a big part in the $102,000 the school raised for Gwinnett Relay for Life -- the largest total of any single institution in the United States, Shaddix said.

"Trust me when I say that North Gwinnett's class of 2012 does work," valedictorian Ho Lim Lee said. "Hard work."

Added salutatorian Matheus Mauricio: "My challenge not only to the class of 2012, but also to every single person in the stadium this morning, is to never stop learning."

The ceremony's keynote speaker was more than befitting the magnitude of the class: Gen. Hugh Shelton, a career military man and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He offered the graduating class (which included his granddaughter) four main pieces of advice.

-- "You are never defeated unless you accept defeat."

-- "Opportunity doesn't come knocking, but the harder you work the luckier you get."

-- "You can't be great without being good."

-- "Your faith, family and friends should be your highest priority."

Shelton, a retired four-star general, was the chief architect of the country's military response to 9/11 and served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001. He has a Purple Heart and has been knighted by the Queen of England.

His own laundry list of accomplishments didn't stop Shelton from complimenting North Gwinnett's seniors.

"You endured. You survived. And you are a wonder in every respect," he said.

The class marked the first to spend all four years under Principal Shaddix. He recalled Friday a conversation he had with the class of 2012, then freshmen, on just his sixth day in the job.

"I asked you what your legacy would be," he said. "You answered that question resoundingly."