The Dawson County High School class of 2018 won’t be walking across the 50 yard line to get their diplomas. Instead, they will be celebrating the momentous occasion in Dahlonega at the University of North Georgia’s new convocation center.
“We are excited to host the 2018 graduation ceremony at UNG's new Convocation Center,” said Principal Richard Crumley. “We are also proud of our seniors for taking the initiative to request the move.”
According to DCHS Graduation Coach Stefanie Gibbs, the move was thanks to 235 seniors who approached administration with their desire to move the ceremony to Dahlonega.
“They have shown some amazing leadership so far and I look forward to seeing all they will accomplish,” said Gibbs.
One senior in particular, Youth Leadership graduate Carter Whaley, was instrumental in working with Gibbs to get the senior class on board. Gibbs approached Whaley about the location move, which he agreed was a good idea.
“I just started asking around and I talked to a couple classes about it and just kind of got the word out there and it kind of took off from there,” said Whaley.
Much to Whaley’s surprise, most of the senior class was in favor of moving the graduation to UNG. Whaley estimates 75 percent of the class supported the decision. He believes that students were in favor because it means they receive more tickets to the graduation as well as the excitement of being the first DCHS class to walk across that stage.
The new state of the art facility is climate controlled and holds 3600 people which Crumley and Gibbs say will eliminate weather concerns and provide accessibility for those with disabilities.
Whaley recounted that weather has always been a huge factor for the graduation. With it being set during a late May afternoon, Whaley says it can get pretty miserable with the hot sun beating down on students as well as the audience. When it’s not a concern about the heat, rain is the big worry.
“I remember two years ago when I was a sophomore it was going to rain and they had to move the graduation inside to the gym. Thank God it ended up not raining,” said Whaley. “They had absolutely no room to put anybody so it was a huge dilemma.”
The center, which began construction in summer 2016, is scheduled to be opened spring 2018. Kate Maine, the Chief of Staff and Director of University Relations at UNG, said she anticipates the center could potentially be open for the college’s basketball games Feb. 24 which will allow the community a sneak peek into the facility, however it will not be fully open until later in the spring – most likely April or early May.
“Because there are limited facilities in this area for large-scale events, we have always anticipated that it would be used by community groups for events like graduations,” said Maine. “We are already receiving requests by outside groups for renting the space, and we are pleased that there is such strong community interest in this new facility at UNG.”
Gibbs said she hopes to be able to live-stream the 2018 graduation so that family and friends across the country can watch the ceremony.
“If you have family in different states or maybe even a different country they can watch this because high school graduation is a big deal,” said Whaley.
Another graduation change for 2018 is the graduation date itself. Normally held on a Saturday afternoon, this year’s graduating class will be getting their diplomas on a Thursday instead.
“Now we have all weekend to do graduation parties,” said Whaley.
Of course, not every senior was excited about receiving their diplomas in Dahlonega. After spending four years at DCHS, some students wish to have that sentimental moment of walking across the 50 year line, but Whaley and Gibbs may have a solution to make everyone happy.
According to Whaley, he has been working with Gibbs to propose a solution to give students that last sentimental moment at the high school by hosting a spring festival or senior night activity on the field before graduation.
“We all go out, we set up a projector, watch a movie on the football field when it gets warmer or some kind of little carnival,” said Whaley. “A lot of people are for that so I think that was another thing that shifted it so hopefully Ms. Gibbs and I can get together and kind of work through that a little bit more. Then you have that last moment at the high school. I think that’s something we need to move towards.”
The new convocation center will be located in the southwest zone of the Dahlonega campus, just off Morrison Moore Parkway. Graduation is scheduled for Thursday May 24.