ALBANY, GA (WALB) - As students at Monroe High School rehearsed for graduation, they said thanks to those who helped them reach their goals.
"I want to say to every one of you that I'm very proud of you," said Principal Vinson Davis, as he spoke to students at graduation rehearsal on Friday.
It's an emotional time for Davis as he prepares to watch his students walk across the stage tomorrow at Monroe High School's graduation.
"I'm up here now kind of choked up about it," said Davis.
As students practiced walking across the stage today, they reflected on how they got to where they are.
"The hardest part was keeping my grades, keeping them above failing," said Michael Johnson Jr., a transfer student from Westover High School.
Like other students, he said he wasn't sure he'd be crossing the stage tomorrow when he first switched schools.
"There were times when I wanted to give up, like this is too hard for me," said Anteneka Powell.
Powell said she made a significant turn around since her freshman year.
When Principal Davis first got to the school four years ago, he said the graduation rate was less than 50 percent of students. Since then, it's increased to more than 80 percent.
"A lot of things went into that challenge," explained Davis. "From deficiencies on the academic level, who struggled with math and reading, to kids who didn't have a lot of hope in terms of graduating."
He said it's taken a community effort to increase the graduation rate.
"It speaks to the entire community. I wish I could point to one specific program but it has been a number of things," said Davis.
Students said if it weren't for the support from the school, some of them may not be graduating on Saturday.
"There have been times when they said no you are going to stay here and do this," said Powell.
"My teachers all had a part in me, in this right here, graduating," explained Marquez Bradley.
And while students named several people who helped with their success, they had one name in common.
"Mr. Davis came to me and acted like family. It was like he was another dad to me," said Quotisha Parker.
Davis said he wouldn't be satisfied until 100 percent of students are graduating each year.
Graduation is Saturday at the civic center for all four Dougherty County High Schools.
The ceremony will kick off at 11:30 for students at Monroe.
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