Teachers, administrators, family and friends gathered by Zoom June 2, 2020 to recognize the 34 students who completed eighth grade at Eastern Mennonite School during the COVID-19 time of distance learning. The celebration also marked their official welcome to high school.
The class of ’24 is known as being especially welcoming and insightful, noted Maria Archer, K-8 principal. “Faculty frequently commented on your class’s ability to look at things from different points of view and to listen to others, even as you advocated for yourselves,” she told them. “You include new people, you enjoy each other, you come together as a community. You mean the best and want to welcome each person.”
Those are mature characteristics for middle school students, Archer said. She also remembered how she often would go to the 8th grade students for their input. “Can you help me know what is going on?” she would ask. “I appreciate you!” Archer said. “You will not be forgotten. Your mark has been left.”
Justin King, high school principal, was next on the program, formally welcoming the students to high school. Most of the 34 eighth graders will return next year for high school, where they will be joined by new incoming high school students. [EMHS is still accepting applications for the 2020-21 school year.]
“I wish three things for you as you start high school,” said Mr. King. “May you be curious. May you be challenged. May you be somebody.”
Expounding on those three, King expressed his desire that each student would build on the foundation of their Eastern Mennonite Middle School experience to develop a love for learning where they would discover new passions and be challenged to pursue new interests.
He reminded them that they are each “somebody,” known and loved by God. “You are not just a number,” he said. You are cared for by your teachers, staff, administrators, friends, family.” He also noted that they are “somebody” when they see injustice or something that needs to be changed. “When you say, ‘somebody ought to pick up that trash,’ or ‘Somebody ought to do something about that injustice,’ remember that YOU are ‘somebody,'” he encouraged.
Jodi Hertzler, 8th grade English teacher, and college and career counselor, read the poem Crossing, by Jericho Brown.
by Jericho Brown
The water is one thing, and one thing for miles.
The water is one thing, making this bridge
Built over the water another. Walk it
Early, walk it back when the day goes dim, everyone
Rising just to find a way toward rest again.
We work, start on one side of the day
Like a planet’s only sun, our eyes straight
Until the flame sinks. The flame sinks. Thank God
I’m different. I’ve figured and counted. I’m not crossing
To cross back. I’m set
On something vast. It reaches
Long as the sea. I’m more than a conqueror, bigger
Than bravery. I don’t march. I’m the one who leaps.
“I think this is the perfect challenge for you right now,” said Hertzler. “Throughout high school you may find yourself stuck in routine, sort of like going back and forth over a bridge… This author is willing to take risks, willing to make leaps. My prayer for you is that you can take risks as you enter high school too.”
Eighth grade teachers then shared words and phrases from projected certificates about each student, gathered from teachers and administrators recognizing the unique personalities and contributions to the class.
A highlight of the program was a slide show of images prepared by Jennifer Young, PE, health and first aid teacher.
Maria Archer closed with a prayer of blessing.