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Mountain View celebrates 'first class' graduation

Staff Photo: John Bohn Mountain View High School class of 2013 graduate Julens Jules, right, hugs his father Previlege Jules after a commencement ceremony held at the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Friday. This is the first graduating class to spend four years as students at Mountain View.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Mountain View High School class of 2013 graduate Julens Jules, right, hugs his father Previlege Jules after a commencement ceremony held at the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Friday. This is the first graduating class to spend four years as students at Mountain View.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Mountain View High School class of 2013 Salutatorian Marissa Balkcom, left, and Valedictorian Alex Herring, right, were the first of their class to receive diplomas as members of the first graduating class to spend four years as students at Mountain View. The commencement ceremony took place at the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Friday.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Mountain View High School graduates Joseph Bell, center left, and Lindsey Baxter, center right, process out of the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Friday. The Mountain View class of 2013 is the first class of students to spend four years at the school.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Mountain View High School graduation senior Daniel Ruiz-Diaz, left, directs classmate Charlie Russell, center, towards family members during their commencement exercise at the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Wednesday. The class of 2013 is the first graduating class to spend four years as students at Mountain View.

DULUTH -- Hannah Lewis has her whole life ahead of her.

Her parents, Mike and Valla Lewis, said Friday's graduation ceremony was just the start of the 18-year-old girl's education. She's packing her bags soon and headed to the University of Alabama, studying to become a nurse.

As one of 430 graduates of Mountain View High School and a member of the first class of students who have spent their entire four-year high school careers there, she was congratulated by staff and administrators, family and friends at Gwinnett Center Arena.

"It was up to you guys to set the trends, the goals and the traditions," said Principal Keith Chaney, addressing graduates and a crowd of thousands. "We're proud of this class, the first to come all the way through all four years of Mountain View."

Salutatorian Marissa Balkcom said that being a member of the "first class" was an honor.

Valedictorian Alex Herring echoed her remarks.

"As the first class, we have made the most of our time here," Herring said. "As each of us begins our climb, we should expect to climb our own mountain, choosing the trail that is best for each of us."

Added Herring: "We must keep pressing toward the summit."

Their "first class" status is unique. But it's a distinction shared by one other high school in the district: Archer.

Archer High School, which will mark the same milestone at 7 p.m. today -- having opened the same year as Mountain View -- will have 428 graduates crossing the stage at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

And much like the Mountain View graduation and all 21 graduations districtwide, proud parents and grandparents like Hannah Lewis' relatives, will watch with pride as their young graduates receive their high school diplomas.

During Friday's ceremony Hannah's maternal grandparents (Dave and Wanda Simpson) and paternal grandparents (Allen and Colleen Lewis) stood to applaud as the girl walked up the aisle to take her seat amongst a sea of robes and tassels.

Both sets of grandparents flew all the way from Virginia to see their granddaughter graduate.

"It's an important day," said father, Mike. "We're excited to see her begin the next step in her educational career."