Parade of Graduates Celebrates Class of 2018

Parade of Graduates Celebrates Class of 2018, Inspires Youngest Learners to Dream Big
Posted on 05/23/2018
This is the image for the news article titled Parade of Graduates Celebrates Class of 2018, Inspires Youngest Learners to Dream Big

collage of parade of graduates celebrations at elementary schoolsTo the cheers of students, staff, parents and members of the community, approximately 900 seniors from both Lakota East and West high schools walked the halls of their elementary buildings during the second annual Parade of Graduates. 

Amy Alexander, an academic coach at Liberty Junior School and the coordinator of the parade, came up with the concept two years ago after seeing a viral video on social media about a similar event. A member of Lakota’s Champions for Change, Alexander brought it to the group, which immediately jumped on board to help.

The Champions, Lakota’s cultural proficiency training program, helps to build a stronger environment of inclusiveness that supports high achievement for students of all different backgrounds throughout the district. The Parade of Graduates captures the essence of the program and is an opportunity for younger students to have everyday role models. “We want the little ones to see people who look like them - regardless of skin color, socio-economic status, ability, religion, cultural background – in graduation robes, successfully reaching the goal of a high school graduation,” explained Alexander.

For seniors, it’s a chance to reflect on how far they’ve come during their years in Lakota, and a chance to revisit their early stomping grounds, to see teachers and staff members who have had an impact in their lives. "Walking through my elementary school for the Parade of Graduates at VanGorden was overwhelming - but in a good way. I was able to see my sister and my mom cheering me on at a such a big milestone in my life. I'm glad Lakota gave me this opportunity," said Julianne Ford, a senior at Lakota East.

Another goal of the annual event is to build up the seniors so they see themselves as role models and to know that they have the support of Lakota as they move on to the next chapter of their lives. As they parade through the hallways, the seniors carry signs that show their post-graduation plans. “We want the little ones to see the big ones and think to themselves, ‘I WANT THAT!’ We want them to read the graduates’ signs and be inspired, thinking, ‘I have options! There are lots of possibilities out there when I’m a graduate. They’re doing so many exciting things! If this person can stick with it and graduate, so can I!’” Alexander noted.

Once the parade is finished, the seniors are given letters written by the elementary students. The letters contain words of encouragement and advice such as how to live a happy life, how to be a responsible adult and how to accept people who are different than them - all from the perspective of elementary aged students. Alexander hopes that “the sweet, earnest sentiments from the little ones will stay with them as they leave the Lakota School District behind. For the seniors who are able to parade in the elementary school they attended, it’s a lovely way for them to ‘come home again’ before they head out into the big world.”

Emotions were worn on heartsleeves at all 10 of Lakota’s elementary buildings, both by the seniors and the well-wishers. “It was emotional to see all your teachers,” said Lakota West senior Nina Emlemdi. “It was crazy to see how fast time went by.”

Alexander’s goals for the Parade of Graduates include giving the seniors a heartfelt send off from the district. The participation by parents and community members is not only a show of support for the seniors, but also encourages a connection between the school district and resident without students at Lakota. 

Click here to see a video recapping the Parade of Graduates events.

Tune in for an interview about "Parade of Graduates" on this month's edition of "LIsten Up Lakota." The program will air on WMKV 89.3FM and WLHS 89.9FM (a better signal in Butler County) on Thursday, May 24 at 1 p.m.