MAKING THE GRADE: A happy, sad time

By Daily News • Last Updated 10:34 am on Thursday, June 05, 2014

Making the Grade | Janet Ralph

May and June are emotional times for graduates and their families. Students are anxious to graduate and move on to an uncertain future. But this is also the time when they face separation from not only their families but from classmates and friends and the familiar routine of school.

Many are excited but also a bit anxious about the next step in their lives. Others, for whom elementary and high school may not have been a good experience, are eager and hopeful about a change in their lifestyle. Parents are proud, happy and apprehensive about their child growing up and moving on.

But for most, if not all, graduation and the events that surround it is a time of excitement and celebration.

I spent last week attending the honors week assemblies at Greenville High School. Different schools handle these ceremonies in different ways, but for all this is a time of recognition of achievement as well as a time to say good bye.

The assemblies at GHS begin with Activities/Leadership Day. The entire student body, and family and friends who choose to do so, gather in the gym. Awards are given to students in all grades for their participation in activities such as Marketing, band and orchestra, choir, drama, Science Olympiad and Michigan Blood Cord. Awards are also given for attendance, for participation in student council and National Honor Society. Scholarships are awarded for American Legion Wolverine Girls and Boys State, and Rocket Cheerleading and Football. Michigan High School Athletic Association Athlete Nominees are announced. Valued awards like the O.K. Conference Scholar Athlete, U. S. Army National Scholar Athlete, U.S. Marine Distinguished Athlete, Anne Hathaway Cook Award, the A.F. Allinder Award and the OK Conference/GHS Outstanding Senior Athlete are announced.

Academic Achievement Day is devoted to recognizing academic achievement by students in all four grades. Especially important is acknowledging students who have made the most improvement.  The impressive number of students who have done well serves also as a motivation to others.

Scholarship Day is usually on Wednesday. It stands out for two reasons. It recognizes students who have been awarded scholarships to attend college or other post high school training. But it also demonstrates the generosity of area individuals and organizations the community. This year, more than $100,000 was given by local citizens and groups to support graduates post high school education. This is a tribute to both the graduates and the community.

Friday is Swingout. It is truly a day for and by students. Graduates enter wearing their caps and gowns. The coveted Captain Grow and the American Legion Awards are given and the Outstanding Male and Female are announced. The Village Green Singers perform for the final time with seniors. Fellow class members give the welcome, class history and the farewell and the class poem is read. Then, usually with a few tears, they leave the gymnasium for the last time as GHS students. Many participate in a Mystery Trip arranged by parents as a safe celebration when they are together as a class. The graduation ceremony on Sunday is the final step in their separation from GHS and one another.

At a time when there is so much criticism of public education, these events serve to remind us of all the good in local schools and all the support by local communities. We know some of the graduates will return to help pass these traditions along while others will leave the area to use their talents elsewhere.

While we are recognizing this year’s graduates and the generosity and support of the community, this is an appropriate time to acknowledge an opportunity provided by a former Greenville student. Earlier this month, Dr. Michael Stafford, a Greenville graduate who is the Executive Director of The Cranbrook Institute, arranged for all fifth grade students in Greenville Public Schools and St. Charles School to spend a day at Cranbrook all expenses paid. This was a marvelous opportunity for these students to learn about science.

This is a happy and sad time.  It is also a time to remember the many positive things about our community, our school system and the many generous people whose support and generosity make it all possible. These are traditions worth sustaining.

Janet Ralph is president of the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education.

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