RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Graduation season is underway in the Triangle with a lot to celebrate, but also reflect on after what some said was a difficult school year full of lockdowns caused by gun scares and deadly shootings involving young people in Wake and Durham counties.
"My mental health was very bad," Northern High School graduate Kmari Johnson said. "A couple weeks ago, we even had a lockdown at our school which did something to me because it was just being put in that moment."
The four years also included navigating through a pandemic era, which Johnson said she persevered with strength.
"We didn't even get a real freshman year so to even be able to get the opportunity to walk across an actual stage is amazing," Johnson said. "Our mental health was challenged. To know that all of us can make it and walk across the stage is just like, we made it guys."
Through the ups and downs, the graduating Class of 2023 turned its tassels on Friday with loved ones right beside them.
Broughton High School began the graduation blitz in Wake County with more than 20 graduations to come between Friday and next Thursday.
"These kids have learned to be really responsible in so many different ways virtually and in person," Henry Clark said while looking at his son, Will Clark. "They're wiser and older than their years."
Three Durham schools handed out diplomas on Friday and the next three graduation ceremonies will take place on Monday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Durham Public Schools Class of 2023 has been offered nearly $70 million in scholarships this year with Hillside High School seniors leading the way with $22 million of the total.
Saturday was jam-packed in downtown Raleigh as hundreds of families gathered at the Raleigh Convention Center to participate in at least one of four total graduations.
"I'm not really nervous, I'm more just angry because I got stuck in traffic but I can't wait to graduate," Green Hope High School senior Sam Salo said.
WCPSS advised families to allow significant time for traffic and parking.
"We'll see how it goes," parent Jon Hager said about leaving after the ceremony. "We walk up and there's a huge line just to get into graduation. But we're excited, it's all good. Celebration."