The effects of COVID-19 have caused schools across the country to cancel in-person classes, spring sports, and, perhaps most unfortunate, graduation ceremonies and festivities to honor 2020 graduates of all levels. Despite this disappointing blow, many institutions have taken it upon themselves to create new ways of honoring their graduates, not letting their exemplary accomplishments pass by unnoticed. The 8th grade class at Fegely Middle School in Portage experienced a new kind of celebration Wednesday evening, as the school hosted a drive by event for graduates and their families.
The festivities kicked off a day earlier with a special slideshow presentation posted on the school’s website, Schoology Platform, and Facebook page. The slideshow announced the winners of many different awards typically presented at the end of the school year. The celebration continued with the release of an 8th grade presentation video Wednesday morning.
“The video consists of my speech to all our 8th grade students, a short speech by our teachers, the reading of all our 8th grade names by Warrior Time (advisor) teachers, and a dedicated song by me with pictures to commemorate their time at Fegely,” said Ann Marie Caballero, principal of Fegely Middle School. “It ends with a final welcome by Mike Stills, principal of Portage High School.”
Wednesday evening, the celebrations concluded with the 8th grade parade that circled through the Fegely parking lot. Families were encouraged to decorate their cars and drive through the parking lot where administrators, directors, teachers, and staff were all lined up six feet apart, per social distancing regulations, to wave, hold signs, and send the kids off to the next phase of their educational career.
“We wanted to give our 8th grade class a proper farewell and start off the next chapter of their lives with our support, love, and understanding that the Fegely Family will always be in their corner,” Caballero said.
Students made their way through the parking lot and came to a stop to find their teachers handing them their certificate and a special gift.
“Providing this celebration for our 8th grade students was something that was not only important to me but to my staff as well,” Caballero said. “We pride ourselves on being ‘Fegely Family,’ and we believe that family takes care of, supports, and loves each other. We want to be sure to show our 8th grade students that while COVID-19 has changed the ‘look’ of education, it has not changed who we are and how special their accomplishment of finishing middle school is.”
After receiving their gifts and well-deserved congratulations, students and their families drove through a balloon arch, signifying the completion of one phase and the beginning of the next: high school!
“I have to extend a huge thank you to all of our families, teachers, and staff for supporting the success of our students now and forever,” Caballero said. “I believe it is always important to recognize our students, but even more so during this specific time.”
Caballero has a message for all of her beloved 8th graders as they wrap up the 2020 school year, and, along with it, the last days of their middle school experience.
“We have laughed, we have cried but we did it all as a family: you, your family at home, your teachers and staff, your friends, and your administrators. We all worked together, and you have accomplished a great task: the completion of middle school,” Caballero said.
“Although you are leaving the Fegely building, I expect that each one of you will go to high school being the best you, and putting your best foot forward,” she continued. “You will continue to grow emotionally, learn new content, and challenge yourself to go to the next level. You can ‘restart,’ because that is what life truly is: an opportunity to do better every day. Work hard, believe in yourself, be kind, take chances—make us proud! And remember, you are a WARRIOR!”