It's a rite of passage, but one that will be done differently this year as Gwinnett County Public Schools gets set for graduation ceremonies, which begin Wednesday.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremonies won't be held at stadiums or the Infinite Energy Arena. They will be held virtually, and will be live streamed on the GCPS website, with Phoenix High leading things off Wednesday followed by the district's two newest schools — McClure Health Science High and Paul Duke STEM High.

Nearly 13,000 seniors will mark the end of their high school careers by the end of the week, careers that will always be remembered in the unprecedented way they ended due to the pandemic. 

“Graduation is a special time of celebration and we salute the Class of 2020,” GCPS CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said. “The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed where and how this year’s senior class completed their high school career, but it cannot take away all that they have accomplished.

"These students made lasting contributions to our schools — earning prestigious awards and scholarships, state championships, and more. As important, they established themselves as civic-minded individuals who contributed to our community through service to others, leadership opportunities, and giving back to Gwinnett."

The GCPS Class of 2020 earned more than $204.9 million in scholarships, with $105 million coming in academic scholarships, more than $92.3 million in athletic scholarships and more than $7.5 million due to military appointments.

Those numbers don't include HOPE, or full-tuition scholarships associated with the POSSE, QuestBridge or Gates scholarship programs.

The Class of 2020 also includes 3,672 Honor Graduates, who are graduating with a grade percent average of 90 or better. And 6,756 seniors took Advanced Placement (AP) courses, with 1,887 of them also earned college credit through dual enrollment.

The largest graduating class this year is from Mill Creek, which will graduate 866 students. It is followed by Brookwood (839) and Peachtree Ridge (808). Wilbanks said he is proud of all the graduating seniors and those who helped get them to this point.

"I applaud (the students) for their accomplishments and extend my deep appreciation to the families who supported and encouraged them during their academic career," Wilbanks said. "I also salute the thousands of educators who gave their all to these students, helping these graduates to thrive and to be prepared for their futures.”

In addition to being broadcast on the GCPS website (www.gcpsk12.org), the graduations will also be televised on AT&T U-verse (listed under local government) as well as Charter Channel 180 and Comcast Channel 24 or 26.

The district plans to hold in-person graduation ceremonies in July if conditions allow.

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