Maddie Thomas chose to be part of this year’s first-ever graduating class at Cherokee Bluff High for several reasons.
But like her peers and mentors, the biggest reason was to be a part of establishing a new tradition of academic and athletic excellence in South Hall.
“I thought there was a lot of opportunities (at Cherokee Bluff),” she said.
So much so, in fact, that her family agreed and moved from Banks County so Thomas could attend.
The result: Thomas will enroll at Brenau University in Gainesville this fall on a scholarship.
As the vice president of the senior class, Thomas said she hoped she helped lay a foundation for the basketball program and set expectations higher for the next class.
“We got to put in some ideas to get things going,” she added.
Thomas was just one of two seniors on the basketball team this year, and that allowed her to develop better leadership skills, she said.
The team made it to the first round of the state playoffs in its first season, a good run for a new school.
Thomas said she will study exercise science at Brenau and intends to pursue an occupational therapy career specializing in pediatric care.
When Cherokee Bluff High opened last fall, it was described by school leaders as an opportunity to be a part of setting a new tradition.
Savannah Lunt, president of the senior class and yearbook editor, said she can relate to Thomas.
She had attended Flowery Branch High for three years.
Stories of seniors from each Gainesville and Hall school are collected in this class of 2019 section.
But Lunt wanted a change and a chance to make history.
She arrived on campus, like Thomas, in a roundabout kind of way.
Lunt had planned to also play basketball, but an ACL tear last summer interrupted those dreams.
“I really wanted the atmosphere of a small school,” Lunt said.
And, ultimately, it’s what drew her to the school even without the opportunity to play basketball.
Lunt said being a part of Cherokee Bluff’s first graduating class has been an “awesome” experience thanks to the faculty and administration, who have brought the inaugural senior class together in solidarity.
Lunt said she’s gotten to know the entire senior class in her role as president.
“We come from a lot of different places,” she added, describing Cherokee Bluff as a kind of melting pot for students from across Hall County.
But no matter where these students have been, Lunt said, “Our motto is every story matters and making sure no one gets lost in the crowd is important.”
Lunt will attend Brigham Young University this fall and plans to study editing and publishing, she said.
She’ll also undertake a mission as part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But before that journey begins, Lunt will have the opportunity to speak at graduation, and she plans to make it a “speech for them,” she said, referring to her entire class.
But with only about 60 seniors, “Graduation is going to be real short, which is kind of nice,” Lunt said with a laugh.