The halls of Central Point Elementary were alive with movement Monday.
Students ranging in age from 5 to 10 were dancing, jumping and talking excitedly with friends. The noise level rose as some began high-fiving passersby and clapping — practicing for their awaited guests, a group of graduating seniors from Crater High School.
Teacher Tammie Colom’s excitement was more reserved on the exterior, as she kept a watchful eye on her class of kindergartners. But, she said, each time this occasion rolls around, she gets “teary on the inside” to see Crater graduates who once were as small as her current students returning to walk the elementary-school halls once again.
“It’s a long haul from kindergarten to graduation,” she said. The annual Grad Walk held at elementary and middle schools across Central Point School District in early June “gives (students) something to look forward to for the future.”
A few minutes later, as the 2004 Kelly Clarkson hit “Breakaway” began playing in the halls, a stream of teenagers in black robes and mortarboards entered to a shout from the younger students.
Graduates gave high fives and stopped to hug their former teachers. Some looked slightly overwhelmed.
“Stay in school,” one Crater student said to the elementary students several times as he made his way through the throng. A group of first-graders giggled and started repeating it to each other.
Not all the graduates making their way down the halls Monday morning had attended Central Point Elementary. Each of the three buses that left Crater full of students visited two or three schools, and many students had attended only one of the schools on their tour.
Neither Rachel Idiart nor Kianna Evans went to Central Point Elementary. Idiart is a former student of Mae Richardson Elementary, the next scheduled destination for their bus. Evans, meanwhile, moved to Central Point School District in high school — but wanted to come on the Grad Walk anyway.
“Knowing that they all look up to us is nice,” Evans said. “We never did (a grad walk) when I was this age.”
Idiart, who plans to become a teacher, said she could take the idea with her to wherever she winds up working.
These takeaways for both younger students and graduates are what Kimbra LeCornu, who heads promotions for the school district, said she had in mind when she and Superintendent Samantha Steele organized the first one in 2016. Medford high school grads will take a similar walk Friday.
Steele said the Grad Walk “is a powerful symbol that allows elementary kids to see themselves as future graduates.”
It’s also good for teachers to be reminded of the longterm impacts of their relationships with students, Central Point Elementary Principal Walt Davenport said.
Those impacts were on display at Scenic Middle School an hour later, when a different bus of Crater graduates arrived early for their walk through the breezeways. As they waited for their time, teachers and staff wandered to the front of the school, reuniting with shouts and hugs.
Not all the memories are made in the classroom, however. One of the biggest groups of students gathered around Scenic custodian Steven Morris — or as he’s more commonly known at school, “Bubbles.”
“When I got this job, it was a life-changing experience to be able to know that I was in a job that I could retire from and get to know so many different human beings,” Morris said. “You know? They’re just all so different.”
One thing was not different, however. Educators at every level have the same goal for their students: that they graduate from high school, just as their visitors are about to come Wednesday night.
“It’s a good entry point for what graduation is, what it takes to graduate, how the world works as far as education,” Davenport said. “If you want it, you have to teach it.”
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.