Words of wisdom offered by Summit Middle School teachers ran the gamut from Dr. Seuss to Gandhi at this year’s Recognition Ceremony for the class of 2017.
Friends and relatives of the 207 eighth-graders packed into the middle school auditorium, filling its seats and spilling into its aisles, to watch the ceremony marking the students’ transition from middle school to high school. While the middle school has been holding this ceremony for years, there have been a few recent additions, including a video presentation featuring staff and teachers from grades six through eight saying goodbye to students, wishing them well and offering them advice for high school and beyond.
Applause and cheers punctuated each new image.
“Always eat your vegetables,” one admonished, to general laughter.
“Don’t forget to dance,” exhorted a group of teachers, who then proceeded to dance around on screen.
Students clapped and laughed at inside jokes and references to events from the school year. Some stood up and pumped their fists as favorite teachers and staff members appeared.
After the video, students were called up onstage in small groups to stand in front of the audience. Cameras flashed and whistles pierced the air at each name, with congratulations shouted by parents, friends and classmates. Students exchanged high fives as they walked back to their seats, clutching a white envelope with certificates, awards and personalized notecards from teachers.
Middle school principal Joel Rivera also gave a short speech. He joked about the snowy May weather before moving on to a more serious theme. He reminded students they have support from all sides as they start at a new school — from teachers, parents and classmates.
“You’re never going to have friends as good as you have now,” he said. “As you move forward, you’re going to have probably the happiest years of your life.”
Most of all, Rivera emphasized, unlike a graduation, this was a moving on ceremony.
“This is not the end of it,” he said. “This is the beginning.”
After the ceremony, the crowd poured outside the auditorium to celebrate with snacks, hugs and plenty of pictures.
“The ceremony is great,” said Judy Garbe, whose son Cooper Garbe is moving on to the ninth grade. Garbe said her school didn’t do any kind of ceremony when she was in middle school, and she likes that the teachers are acknowledging this moment in the students’ lives.
“I think they really did a good job, and the support from the school, the teachers and mentors really helped the kids figure out who they are and bring out the best in them,” she said.
Students expressed their enjoyment of the “words of wisdom” video.
“It was fun,” Holly Minor said of the ceremony, although she preferred the video to standing onstage in front of everyone.
Minor added that she’s most looking forward to playing rugby on the high school team. She’s already signed up for advanced geometry and biology classes and said she’ll miss her humanities teacher, John Spierling.
Classmate Luis Contreras is looking forward to his high school classes as well.
“In high school I just want to get a really good education, a really good job,” he said. “I’m just going to put some effort into it.”
Rivera was in high spirits after the ceremony and said he’s looking forward to continuing the tradition of the good-bye video, because it gives the sixth- and seventh-grade teachers an opportunity to say goodbye to the students and gives the students a nice keepsake.
The Recognition Ceremony is significant, he said, because it celebrates both the past three years of middle school and the beginning of high school.
“We see these kids every day for three years, eighty to 10 hours a day,” he said. “They’re like part of our family now. It’s a sad time to see kids go but it’s also a time to recognize their efforts.”
Rivera’s final words of wisdom for the class of 2017: “Seize every opportunity. There are so many supports out there now for every kid; there are so many options and extracurriculars, whether it’s music, sports, culinary arts, they have all these opportunities and they have four years to find what they want to be and what they want to do and explore those actions and take advantage of those opportunities.”