12 June 2016

14 years old - The award ceremony to conclude Middle School, 8th grade

Middle School awards assembly for the 8th grade, the future high school graduating class of 2020
overview, click for full size image (2-frames, stitched panorama)

On the final days of the school year in June, parents and friends are invited to an awards ceremony. At the middle school the 6th and 7th graders meet separately, one after the other, during the school day. But for the oldest students, the event takes place after the workday for most families, starting at 6 p.m. It runs about 90 minutes.
     The program bulletin with spot color on double-sided, single sheet in 7 pitch font size included sets of recipients who paraded onto the stage expeditiously to collect handshake and word of encouragement, plus certificate or other token. Groupings included a locally conceived program called LINKS for peer to peer support, particularly to match confident kids with ones discouraged by academic, social, emotional or other difficulties (73 names, mainly girls).

Next was the Perfect Attendance Awards (missing just 3 hours of the entire scheduled school year (13 names), with one of these asterisked to indicate perfect attendance during all 3 years of middle school. Third came recognition for 8th graders who served as student councilors (6 names). Next were 7 kids who met under the auspices of the local chapter of Kiwanis Club #707 in order to plan and carry out good works in Builders Club. Three students were selected by staff and teachers for special mention in making the school run well, being helpful to teachers, staff, and peers. The academic excellence awards recognize the 47 students who averaged 3.85 during their 3 school years at the middle school. The Foundation for Excellence T-shirts were reserved for the 17 kids whose cumulative GPA for the 3 years was 4.0 (thanks to bonus points; extra credit, and so on). There were 27 kids recognized for doing well in both 2 of 3 sports seasons this past year, and maintaining 3.0 GPA (and being nominated by their coach, too).

Then there was a prize for fundraising prowess (selling magazine subscriptions to family, friends, co-workers brings a partial rebate to the school for its expenses). High sellers were promised either 1000 of tuition at colleges and universities found on a list, or for the very highest sellers the promise was for 2500 toward tuition. The final award was for one boy and one girl at the discretion of the principal, from among nominations made by teaches and staff.
Refreshments (cookies and punch) followed after this first hour of clapping and extolling excellence, to be followed by recap photo story of the past 7 months at the school, projected on the big screen in the cafetorium (cafeteria + auditorium: doubles as stage area).

The motto for the school, staff, teachers and students, found printed on the back side of the program page, reads "Working as a team to build the future!" So the sense of direction is what is to come, but depends on the constructive efforts of today, and not a solo effort, but one that joins many hands. The metaphor of construction project can be extended by comparing the durability, safety,and stylish and high functioning results for well planned and well built work, by contrast to the performance coming from shoddy work, lack of craftsmanship, and ill thought through plans. Excelling in one's work and the fruits of those labors can take many forms, particularly among middle school students, where their bodies grow bigger, take on new shape, and identities are tried on within one's reference group and pool of expectations in a given family, community, or school culture. Dream suddenly spring into mind, are inspired by others, or may be sparked by learning experiences of reading, observing, discussing, or completing certain assignments.
     The minds and hearts of these young people often are open, impressionable, and inquisitive. Much like the way a blueprint comes to life at the earliest stages by staking the land and hanging string to mark elements to be placed or built, levels to be straightened, and so forth, so too for young learners - they build their own ambitions, boundaries and self-definition first from gossamer strands which are easily stretched, tried, changed, or torn asunder. A kind word, and encouraging response, and welcome smile all can move the creation of self from the fragile threads to something quickly to grow solid and increasingly well defined; something which others can see, react to, and thus affect the builder's next steps.

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