All parents know the angst and excitement of watching their children graduate from eighth grade. They started middle school as fifth-grade children and leave as almost young adults at 12 or 13.
It's an important time. One study even suggests the pivotal years bring more academic achievement to impact college and career readiness than high school. Fortunately, COVID-19 didn't stop the milestone from being creatively celebrated this month around Westchester.
Bronxville Middle School students were feted in a virtual event live-streamed on YouTube with highlights including music by the school's orchestra and speeches by many of the students and officials there.
Eight-grader Frannie Krause in her remarks spoke about how the school helped the graduates to be the change they want to see in the world.
“We have learned that we should strive for respect and dignity for all people and that basic rights are worth fighting for,” she said.
Ella Tuck encouraged her fellow classmates to remember the good times they shared together throughout their middle school years and embrace the new challenges they may face in high school.
“In order to truly succeed, you will have to acknowledge that unexpected journeys are a part of life,” she said. “Accept that you can’t plan everything out. Planning out life only brings regret, and I am grateful for my middle school experience for showing me that. We never planned for a pandemic. Don’t let these uncertain times mask the goods times we have shared over the years. Let’s enter high school open to adjustments and ready to manage any unforeseen situations.”
Principal Dr. Thomas Wilson addressed the graduating students as people with "passion, commitment and a drive to live in a better world."
"You are truly living history, and there is no doubt you will remember eighth grade better than any other class that has graduated from this school in memory,” he said.
Rye Neck Middle School students about to enter high school heard remarks from Principal Dr. Eric Lutinski. He acknowledged how the future high school Class of 2024 has endured an unprecedented “toughest time our planet will go through in your lifetime,” and encouraged them to think about perspective and potential as they prepare for high school.
“It’s easy to get stuck in details and complain about the loss of our little rituals or comforts we think we have a right to,” he said in the virtual presentation.
“It’s natural to feel like a victim and it’s natural to blame other people for how crises are handled. The trick is to allow these big events to inform our perspective, not let them become our identity."
He shared a brief list of people who were around the eighth graders’ age when they went through the influenza pandemic of 1918 and were still able to achieve success.
“This crisis will help form our life experience, but most of us are just watching it go by,” Lutinski said. “Corona is not our fault. It’s also not to blame for our problems in life, and it doesn’t have to be an obstacle. Maintain perspective and you will maintain a hold on your considerable potential.”
There were student speakers and words from a teacher, while Superintendent of Schools Barbara Ferraro addressed the 122 eighth-graders at the school as creative, kind and hardworking people.
“This unusual school year brought to life your inner strength, resilience, creativity and perseverance, enabling you to find positive results to new challenges that you face,” Ferraro said.
Among middle school highlights, this week are the achievement of Irvington Middle School eighth-grader Katherine Fisher, whose been a finalist in The New York Times’ 7th annual Editorial Contest for middle and high schooler. She was picked for her essay addressing the need for stricter gun laws, “Firearm Legality: Something Needs to Change."
“Katherine’s piece is beautifully crafted,” her English language arts teacher Olivia Evanko said. “She addresses a very serious issue in American culture while balancing various persuasive techniques purposefully and tactfully.”
With a limit of 450 words, the contest challenged students to choose a topic they care about, gather evidence from sources within and outside The New York Times and write a concise editorial piece to convince readers of their view.
Evanko commended her student’s nuanced editing and revising, as well as her ability to match her rhetoric to argument appropriately.
“She uses logic to disprove valid counterclaims, while also allowing her reader to understand the emotional turmoil that gun violence causes millions of Americans,” Evanko said in a school statement.
The teacher noted how Katherine urged readers to consider the impact of gun laws and violence when they vote in November.
“Before signing off, she leaves her reader with an ominous and thoughtful line: ‘After all, you never know who will be next,’” Evanko said. “In this line, Katherine captures the uncertainty and fear that revolves around gun violence in American culture. As Americans yearn for safety and stability, Katherine clearly addresses the issue that prevents us from this ideal: guns.”
The New York Times is expected to announce the winners in each category, — middle and high school — this month, the school said,.