Staff Photo: John Bohn Kimyatta Moss, left, of Lawrenceville, cheers for her daughter Faysha McMillian, a graduating senior, as Brookwood High School holds their 32nd commencement exercise Wednesday evening.
SNELLVILLE -- The O'Briens came prepared.
"We've got Kleenex and umbrellas," said Cade O'Brien. Her husband, Bill, laughed.
"We're hoping we won't need the umbrellas," he said, looking toward the skies. "They said it might rain."
As one family among hundreds at Brookwood's Community Stadium, they came out to see grandson David Brown get his high school diploma.
With 810 students like Brown graduating Wednesday evening, Brookwood's Class of 2013 was the largest group of graduates in the Gwinnett County Public Schools district.
The sun's heat still seeping through concrete stadium seats, many sweated their way through the evening's graduation ceremonies. But it was "well worth it," said Tiffany Steele, who came out to support her family.
"It goes without saying this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for these kids," Steele said. "What better way to show support than packing the stadium."
And packed, it was.
Numbering thousands, those in attendance listened as Valedictorian Taylor Elizabeth Allen addressed them.
"Parents, teachers, friends ... I hope we'll be able to give back to you even a fraction of that you've given to us," Allen said.
"Our future is now," she added. "Congratulations, Class of 2013."
Salutatorian Justin Tyler Domrongkulraska also spoke to the massive audience.
"It's hard to remember ourselves four years ago ... but from that day forward the memories we forged together have made us into this bright group before you today," Domrongkulraska said.
"Your life is the train and you are the conductor," he said. "Take control and drive for yourself."
Principal Debbie Dees told the graduates to "find what you love and seek your destiny."
Associate Superintendent Steve Flynt echoed her remarks. "You are continuing the trend of beating the odds," Flynt said. "The careers that you are on the path to achieve will help determine your future."
Several students were recognized during a senior leadership awards presentation. They included the following:
-- Taylor Elizabeth Allen, Journal Cup Outstanding Senior
-- Ariana Elizabeth Stringfellow, Brookwood Bronco Award
-- Julia Lauren Bassell, Ashleigh Nicole Cox, Henry Barrett Cohen, Landry Elizabeth Goodgame, Gregory Thomas Cooke, Daniel Stephen Hawkins, Colin Philip Cotter, Adam Charles Ledford, Daniel Reed Cowan and Nicole Susanne Riley, Bit and Bridle Award
-- Kelsea Jane Breedlove and Lauren Catherine Elizabeth Taylor, Citizenship Award
-- Austin William Agar, Callie Ivey Reynolds and Rebecca Grace Walker, Bronco Spirit Award
-- Yili Eric Yao, STAR Student
• Archer, 7 p.m. Saturday, Gwinnett Center Arena
• Berkmar, 9 a.m. Saturday Gwinnett Center Arena
• Collins Hill, 8 a.m. Friday, Gwinnett Center Arena
• Dacula, 8 p.m. today, Gwinnett Center Arena
• Duluth, 4 p.m. today, Gwinnett Center Arena
• Lanier, noon Saturday, Gwinnett Center Arena
• Meadowcreek, noon Friday, Gwinnett Center Arena
• Mill Creek, 8 p.m. today, Stadium
• Mountain View, 4 p.m. Friday, Gwinnett Center Arena
• Norcross, 8 p.m. Friday, Gwinnett Center Arena
• North Gwinnett, 3 p.m. Saturday, Gwinnett Center Arena
• Peachtree Ridge, 8 a.m. today, Gwinnett Center Arena
• South Gwinnett, noon today, Gwinnett Center Arena
• Covenant Christian Academy, 10 a.m. Saturday, Mt. Zion Baptist, Snellville
• Greater Atlanta Christian, 7 p.m. today, Long Forum
• Hebron Christian Academy, 7 p.m. Friday, Hebron Baptist Church Worship Center
• Killian Hill Christian School, 7 p.m. Monday, high school gym
• Old Suwanee Christian School, 7 p.m. today, school gym
• Providence Christian Academy, 10 a.m. Saturday, Mt. Carmel Christian Church, Stone Mountain
• Wesleyan School, 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Morris-Fletcher Quadrangle
• Buford High School, 7 p.m. Friday, Buford High School Gymnasium