Before the Newtown Middle School Moving-Up Ceremony began Monday evening, a crowd of soon-to-be alumni gathered behind a black screen at Western Connecticut State University’s O’Neill Center.
Students gathered in groups, talking among friends, and marking when their teachers arrived for the event.
By the time students entered to “Pomp & Circumstance” on June 16, parents, friends and family members had cameras in hand to record the event from the stands and seats. Some attendees yelled out names, while others simply waved or smiled at their graduates.
NMS Principal Thomas Einhorn welcomed all in attendance, and by the end of the evening shared advice with the students. The students also received advice from Superintendent of Schools Joseph Erardi Jr, when he spoke.
Dr Erardi said his advice came from his own experience. Some of the “tips” Dr Erardi offered resounded more with parents, with clapping coming more from the stands rather than in the center where the 2014 NMS graduates were assembled, like the advice to thank their parents by preparing breakfast in bed for them this coming Saturday, June 21.
Dr Erardi told the students that as they wait this summer for their “mom and dad to become your mother and father” in the subtle transformation of growing up, “my caution to you is that every decision you make independently, do so with the belief that your mother and father is watching what you are doing.”
Other tips for this summer shared by Dr Erardi included there is no need to clean a room that is kept clean, volunteer to help a senior citizen over the summer without the expectation of receiving anything in return, listen to the stories shared by grandparents, create a mindset to produce the best possible work all of the time, and practice saying No.
“A lot of folks my age believe this is the summer of discovery, where temptations of drugs and alcohol will find you,” Dr Erardi cautioned, “and please, have the spine and have the backbone, fall back on the way you have been brought up, and, please, in that moment say no.”
Dr Erardi also told the students to practice answering the questions of their parents with full sentences, and to practice being articulate and genuine.
While Dr Erardi said he has only been in town for a few months, he also said he hopes that the students who go on to attend Newtown High School sit in the O’Neill Center in four years as NHS graduates just as proud of themselves as they are this year.
“Please do your absolute best work all the time, make great decisions, and have a safe and a healthy summer,” he said.
Other speakers during the event included Board of Education Chair Debbie Leidlein, NMS Student Council President Althea Paynter, and eighth grade cluster representatives Elizabeth Hodge, Alexandra Futterman, Justice Zoto, Rachel Wolf, and Talia Hankin.
“This is the moment for which you have been preparing for the last nine years,” Ms Leidlein told the students. “Your accomplishments throughout your years in Newtown are something to be proud of. We as a community congratulate you for them.”
Ms Leidlein encouraged all of the students to find an area that they have an interest in and to make a difference in the community.
“I believe that you will benefit greatly from this experience,” she said. “So, rising ninth graders, it is our great honor and privilege to celebrate you this evening. We look forward to watching you as you move through your high school years.”
When it came time for the students to be recognized for graduating eighth grade, cluster teachers greeted and announced each student as they made their way across the stage to be greeted by Mr Einhorn, Dr Erardi, and BOE Vice Chair Laura Roche. Following the ceremony, students received their Moving-Up Certificates from their teachers.
In his closing remarks for the event, Mr Einhorn offered his advice for the students.
“Please take the time to thank those that have supported you,” he said. “Tell those that are dear to you that you love them. Be kind to others and remember that the road before you is filled with opportunities, make the most of them. Be ready for change as change is the only real constant in life. Don’t be afraid of change embrace it. I wish you all the best and congratulations.”