KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Austin-East Magnet High School celebrated graduation Friday morning, with cheers and laughter filling the football stadium.
“It’s an awesome day,” said Brieta Davis, a mom to one Austin-East graduate. “She started out as a virtual student and she finished in December, so she finished early.”
As for the graduates themselves, they have big plans.
“I’m going to go to TCAT and get a business license so I can own a shop of my own cause I wanna do hair,” said Diamond Moody of her post-high school plans.
While it’s all smiles now, the ceremony was a bright light in an otherwise tragic year for their community. Since January, five former and current Austin-East students were killed in fatal shootings.
“It just shouldn’t have happened, you know what I’m saying,” said Moody. “Stop the violence, put the guns down, love on each other,” added Davis.
Elizabeth Bailey agreed. Bailey was in the stands cheering for her niece. She herself is an Austin-East Alum from 1986.
“I’m here to support my niece and all the students because they have been through so much this year and they have endured so, so much,” Bailey said. “I’m glad God has blessed them to make it through and push them over the finish line.”
Bailey said she wants the community to focus on kindness moving forward.
“I would like to see all the community come together and not separate each other from anything, just put your arms around our children,” she said. “They need our prayers.”
Some of the speakers at Friday’s graduation ceremony included Nathan Langlois, Alvin Armstead, and Pastor Daryl Arnold.
Pastor Daryl Arnold presented a $37,000 check from Overcoming Believers Church to today’s graduates. It will be split evenly, coming out to about $250 per graduate.