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Glenwood Fifth Grade Graduation Connects with Former Gators

Every CHCCS elementary school has developed its own fifth grade graduation rituals and traditions, some very familiar and others more distinctive. When Katie Caggia became principal at Glenwood Elementary School (GES), she worked with staff to institute a new and hopefully lasting tradition. Graduating CHCCS high school students who attended GES are invited back to lead the processional of fifth graders through the school’s hallways to the gym for their graduation from elementary school, a recipe for lots of Kleenex and photos, with smiles all around.

When Caggia suggested a new approach to fifth grade graduation, teachers Jaimi West, Sheryl Finegan, and literacy coach, Elizabeth Angell, took the idea and ran with it. West is now principal intern at McDougle Middle School, but she had no intention of missing GES graduation. "As fifth grade teachers, we often only hear about our former students and how they are doing. It is so wonderful to have them back and see them. I love hearing about their plans for their future. More than anything, I am touched that elementary school holds such a special place in their hearts that they would want to return to help make this such a special event for the current fifth graders. Plus, I think they know how much it means to their former teachers."

GES HS seniors On Wednesday, June 12, more than 30 high school seniors arrived at GES by 8:30, although many of them could have been sleeping late for a change, before their own big weekend ahead. In caps and gowns, they assembled as a panel in the media center and talked to fifth grade students about what they had learned in school and life through the years.

The list of tips and advice contained great nuggets for the attentive audience:

“Be true to yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

You are in charge of your future.

Get involved in clubs. There is something for everyone. If not, make your own.

You can’t do everything all the time.

Don’t get wrapped up in others and what they are doing.

Find great friends. Go to events. Get involved.”

When the fifth graders returned to their classrooms for one last round of instructions and encouragement, the high school seniors mingled and reminiscised, snacking on donuts and hugging teachers and staff who dropped by the media center.

GES graduation halls Fifteen minutes before the scheduled beginning of the graduation ceremony, every grade, from Pre-K through fourth, lined the halls, many with handmade signs of celebration and congratulations. When the seniors led the procession of fifth grade students towards the gym, they high-fived the grinning fans and well-wishers, and many of the students seemed starstruck.

Once everyone had gathered in the gym and both groups of graduating Gators took the stage, they all sang the school song, before the high school students filed back out, many lingering in the courtyard for a little more catching up.