Graduates on parade
Younger students cheer seniors
By Angie Landsverk
Days before Waupaca High School’s graduating seniors walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, they took a stroll down memory lane.
Wearing their navy blue graduation caps and gowns, the seniors walked through Waupaca Learning Center and then to Waupaca Middle School as part of the district’s first Senior Grad Parade.
Students, teachers and staff lined the route on Wednesday, May 24. It included the students and staff from Chain O’ Lakes Elementary School.
They held signs, waved pom pons, cheered and high-fived the members of the Class of 2017.
“Being a part of the Grad Parade really made me remember and appreciate all of the years it took to get to this point in my life. I had a great time, and I think all of the teachers and younger students enjoyed this, too,” said Drew Moloney.
The idea of having a Senior Grad Parade was thrown around numerous times during the past couple of years in multiple buildings by teachers, students, parents and community members, said Danielle McHugh, WHS’s at-risk teacher,
The school district’s PBIS Committee, which includes McHugh, Rocky Mondello, Jody Pankratz and Lori Christian, discussed and planned it.
“Teachers at the elementary and middle levels often do not get a chance to see students when they ‘grow up.’ Having the chance to tell these seniors how proud they are of them and show them they are not forgotten just because they left was powerful,” said Pankratz, WLC’s PBIS coordinator.
She said it was great for the students to see how much their past teachers care about them.
Mary Erspamer, a kindergarten teacher at the school said, “As my current kindergarten class was preparing for the big parade today, I realized how special this graduating class is to me. They were the last class that attended Riverside School, which is where I began my teaching career in Waupaca. They were in kindergarten at Riverside.”
She said Riverside was a close-knit school, where everyone knew everyone, and they “developed very close relationships, not only with the students, but the families.”
McHugh said Moloney told her some seniors had not been too excited about the idea of the Senior Grad Parade.
However, their feelings changed once it began.
Many got emotional, she said.
Advice for students
Last week’s event also included members of the Class of ‘17 speaking to the district’s fourth and eighth graders about their upcoming transitions to middle school and high school.
Seniors volunteered to talk to the students in their homerooms.
It was Moloney’s idea to do so.
“I think it was a useful way for us to communicate to the fourth- and eighth-grade students what to expect in the upcoming years, how to get involved and to ease the nerves they may have going into a new school,” he said.
Moloney, Elle Miller and Spencer Sondrol were among the seniors who spoke to eighth graders.
The topics the students concentrated on were the Waupaca Way, time management, after school clubs and activities, procrastination, school life, good study habits and their future plans as new graduates, McHugh said.
“High school is what you make of it,” Miller said.
McHugh said the seniors used their experiences – good and bad – to explain how to overcome challenges and be successful.
Carl Eggebrecht, WMS’s principal, said it showed the eighth graders the many opportunities they will have in high school.
Going from eighth grade to high school is a big transition, he said.
“I think the bar gets raised a little bit,” he said. “There’s lots of discussion about what you’re going to pursue,” Eggebrecht said.
In kindergarten, students are encouraged to work hard and to be what they want to be, Erspamer said.
“It was great for my kindergartners to see what they can earn if they work hard,” she said. “It was a wonderful experience for them. What a wonderful tradition Waupaca has started, and I am looking forward to seeing many of my former kindergartners as seniors through the years.”
McHugh said the benefits of the Senior Grad Parade were felt throughout the district.
“Seniors benefited by reminiscing about their childhood school memories – seeing some of their former teachers and realizing those former teachers haven’t forgotten about their past students. Those past teachers truly enjoyed seeing former students and the transformation of the once young child to an adult today,” she said. “Younger students benefited from seeing where they are headed and watching their role models stroll the halls they once did when the seniors were their size.”
McHugh said the PBIS committee received a positive response to the Senior Grad Parade.
The 2017 graduates were the first of many senior classes who will now have this parade.
As Moloney walked into WMS to speak to eighth graders last week, he began to remember his days in elementary and middle school.
“When we actually paraded through the two schools as a class, seeing all the faces of the kids and teachers really made me remember my days in the halls of those two buildings. It made me remember all of my old friends, all of my teachers and all of my favorite memories made there,” he said. “I was really happy this was able to happen, because it was great seeing all of my previous teachers, and I could tell by looking at their faces, that they were very happy to see us.”