Fifth and Eighth Graders Celebrate, Prepare to Move on

June 4, 2021 / Andrea Wenger
Grades K-4 line the sidewalk to cheer on 5th grade student graduates. Photo courtesy of Christy McKee
Grades K-4 line the sidewalk to cheer on 5th grade student graduates. Photo courtesy of Christy McKee

Graduates of the elementary and middle school divisions of Eastern Mennonite School celebrated this week with parents, grandparents, friends, and teachers completing milestone years and preparing to move on.


We celebrated 19 fifth grade graduates on June 3. Teacher Erika Gascho shared words about each one’s character and contributions to the community. The graduates shared comments and performed a sword dance. Joy Anderson, music teacher, explained that we do the dance each year because it is difficult (and “we like to try hard things”), it involves some risk (“mistakes are awesome!” she often says), and it is a collaborative effort. The group heard scripture and sang “Unity,” a theme song of the school that says “Jesus, help us live in peace.”

Maria Archer, K-8 principal, shared the following reflections:

This is the second year to have a different kind of graduation ceremony. Last year, it was just 5th graders and their parents, and a few teachers, meeting remotely on Zoom. This year, we are grateful to be in-person, but we are missing K-3rd students and their teachers. And I’m feeling a bit nervous about being so high up on this stage, but I’m doing it anyway.

None-the-less, this is an exciting day for all of us as we look forward to the end of the school year and anticipate our summer adventures with our families.  

From the very first year EMES began, the partnership we have with our parents has been very important to us. And this has never been so true as it has this year. We have been in-person for most of the school year, and it is because all of you here have made it possible. Our Parent reps and parent leadership team met diligently all year long, helping us process many things. You, our families, have followed our protocols, checked in with screenings, and been diligent when anyone in your family was sick. Even though everyone may not have agreed with every decision we made, this community pulled together for the good of us all. Thank you, thank you.

Not all of our faculty are here today, I do want to thank them for supporting each student, teaching in person and online, being flexible, cleaning tables, wearing microphones, and taking your student outside even in the cold. You have made it, and you deserve a rest. Amidst all of this, you continue to laugh together, cry together, and work as a team. Thank you for making my job very rewarding.

Students, thank you for coming to school each day ready to learn, wearing those pesky masks, and smiling and laughing underneath them. You have lifted me up when I was exhausted, and you showed so much resilience. You deserve a rest too.

Eighth grade

Eighth grade graduation took on a more formal feel in the auditorium this year than it usually does in a local park, but this was how we made it work this year. Jennifer Young, middle school team teacher, coordinated the event.  We celebrated 37th eighth graders by naming and affirming character qualities they have each brought to the school.

Comments from Maria Archer:

So, here you are at the end of your middle school years. Some of you came in 6th grade, and others joined in later. You are a group of 37 individuals. But there are also some qualities of you as a group that I have noticed over the past 3 years:

You are Loyal to each other – support each other, stick up for those who are being hurt or misunderstood. You are ready to challenge anything that gets in the way of your classmates’ dignity. 

Speak your minds – As I watched you debate in Bible class, speaking about controversial issues, you stood up for your beliefs and you listened to each other. You even enjoy debating with the adults around you.

Rise to the occasion when needed – Field day is a perfect example of this. You went beyond yourselves to do something for our elementary students. You planned the activities, and you withstood the heat of the day to make sure our younger students had a fun day.

Thank you for your contributions to our middle school. You have left your mark on us and you will be remembered.

Justin King, high school principal, shared these comments:

Hello future 9th grade students, on behalf of your future high school teachers allow me to say a couple quick things: 

First, welcome! Your teachers and I are so excited to get to know you, to challenge you, to encourage you, and to explore with you. We look forward to class socials, service projects, field trips, e-terms, music concerts, musicals, plays, and summer trips.

Second, thank you!  Thank you for being you! Each of you bring unique gifts and talents, personalities, styles, and passions. And thank you in advance for all the amazing things that you will bring to EMHS. YOU will help shape our school for the better- and we celebrate this!  Many of you may fall in love with Chemistry your sophomore year and decide to be a chemical engineer. Maybe you’ll be convinced to participate in model UN as a freshman and then explore politics at George Washington University in DC. Maybe you’ll challenge yourself with AP literature class and decide you want to study creative writing in college. Maybe you’ll decide to do a year of service in New Mexico after high school, or through an internship discover that you SHOULDN’T study architecture at Virginia Tech like you thought. Maybe you’ll take the time to travel the world, pursue music performance, theatre, or college athletics or art school. 

And finally, congratulations! You have lived through one of the most challenging times in your life… middle school! And in addition to completing middle school- you survived a global pandemic! You have had to reach deep within yourself and those around you, to draw from a reservoir of strength, to get through these last two years. And now, know that this reservoir does not disappear. It will always be with you, there, to draw from. Be sure that the skills you have learned in middle school during this time- resiliency, perseverance, cooperation, the importance and power of community connection, make you the MOST PREPARED RISING 9th grade class that EMHS has EVER HAD. 

You will continue to be challenged in new ways, meet new people, pursue new ideas, create a fresh start, and be surrounded by a faith community that commits to nurture, develop, and care for you. 

I can’t wait to see what you guys do in your high school years and beyond- this world needs your energy and courage! Your high school commits to fill your reservoir, to grow its capacity, and to offer our own reservoirs to draw from in times of need. Congratulations! Thank you! Welcome!

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