"He's got a big ol' head," Kelly said, moments before he and about 60 of his fellow Weaver High seniors strolled across stage — Hart included — to get their diplomas Thursday, tassels swinging in the breeze, hundreds of friends and family members in the crowd cheering.
Weaver High and every high school across Calhoun County held graduation ceremonies Thursday, a bittersweet goodbye for many of the students who'll soon venture to college, sign their names on military forms or take their stabs at real jobs.
At Anniston High, more than 1,000 people watched the students receive their diplomas. Some steadied camcorders just so. Some recorded the moment with camera phones.
"Enjoy the present," valedictorian Terryod Burnett said to the Class of 2009. "But don't stress about the future."
Dozens of seniors lined the stage, belting "Grateful. Grateful. Gratefulness is flowing from my heart," the chorus line from a gospel tune.
The audience erupted in cheers for the teachers and faculty of the school after Principal George Jordan, who's leaving after this year, asked his fellow staff to stand.
They have reason to celebrate. Anniston High seniors earned more than $2 million in scholarships this year, Superintendent Joan Frazier said, adding most of that money will be split among 35 to 40 students.
"I am extremely proud," she said, adding the class as a whole has an "extremely vivacious and wonderful personality."
In Piedmont, Janis Sutton beamed at her cap-and-gown wearing son, 19-year-old Brandon Boyle. She said he struggled on his grades but got through because of his determination.
"He was raised in a military family and it was really instilled in him that he was gonna (graduate)," she said.
Boyle, who joined the Army last year, said he'll head off to training, with plans to attend college in the future. But first things first.
"I get to sleep in a little bit more," he said.
Fellow graduate Brittney Kingery said a powerful feeling came over her when she looked into the bleachers and spotted her family.
"You just have that feeling that I finally did it," she said.