Stacey Abrams speaks at the One Georgia Fest: Grad Edition (photo by Alexia Clark/The Atlanta Voice).

High school graduates throughout Greater Atlanta were invited to join Stacey Abrams and the Abrams for Georgia campaign for an evening of celebration at Terminal West on June 6. “One Georgia Fest: Grad Edition” was an event designed to highlight the graduating seniors’ accomplishments. The Democratic candidate for governor provided music, free food, drinks and swag bags for the graduates.

Abrams congratulated and thanked the high school seniors, many of whom dealt with significant challenges during their time in school, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the threat of gun violence, and racial and political tensions.

“You all are proof of why this job matters,” Abrams said. “You are proof that when people are given the opportunity to thrive when they are given a chance to rise, when people are willing to look out for one another, this is what greatness could look like in this state.”

She then expounded on plans she hopes to implement if elected Governor in November. The author and politician wants to expand Medicaid to support single-family households. According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, 1.4 million Georgians do not have adequate health insurance. 25% of uninsured Georgians who suffer from mental illnesses and substance abuse would qualify for Medicaid expansion coverage. The Democratic candidate shared her personal struggle with being uninsured in the past. She also discussed her older brother, who attended Morehouse College. He was diagnosed with type II bipolar disorder and, because he was unable to receive the proper treatment and care, fell ill to substance abuse.

Additional solutions Abrams proposed to boost economic stability and bridge the wealth gap included low-cost or free trade schools for students who may not want to attend college. She also suggested creating apprenticeships so that citizens can work on their skills and still be able to learn as they advance in their studies.

“We are here with you… I want you all to know the next time this happens, you all won’t have to go through it alone, Abrams said. “I want to make sure young people have a governor that sees you, hears you, and a governor that wants your success.”

Daniel Hermonstine, the 2022 valedictorian at Daniel McLaughlin Therrell High School, explained the importance of diverse pathways for young Georgians in this new decade. Hermonstine expounded on possible solutions through voting and electing officials such as Abrams to support new initiatives and solutions.

“Georgia cannot reach its full potential without making our voices heard,” Hermonstine said, “Please make sure you register to vote and encourage your family and friends to vote. This year is an opportunity to make history. You…have the opportunity to ensure young people like us are represented.”

The event also featured music by DJ Boogie Lov and a performance by rapper Yung Baby Tate. Special guest and motivational speaker Jovon Paige discussed his upbringing, and how he was forced to rise above circumstances such as homelessness, domestic violence and surviving seven motor vehicle accidents. His message to attendees was that perseverance is the key to overcoming so many of the obstacles they will face in life. 

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