About 150 members of Newark High School’s Class of 2017 recently participated in the annual Cap and Gown Walk at Newark Middle School and Lincoln, Perkins and Kelley schools as students waved and cheered on the seniors.
The walk started last year at the suggestion of Kelley School staff and with permission from Kelley Principal Jeff Hamelinck and NHS Principal Tom Roote.
In 2016, with a tight time frame at the end of the school year, only about 35 members of the Class of 2016 participated, walking through Kelley School’s hallways a week before commencement as cheering staff and students celebrated their accomplishment.
Many of the 2016 seniors gave students at Kelley high fives as they excitedly reached out their hands, and some of the teachers got hugs from former students. The event was patterned after a new tradition in social media called Senior Walks, where members of graduating classes, wearing cap and gowns, walk through the halls of elementary and intermediate schools in their district.
Not only does it give seniors a nostalgic opportunity a few days before they graduate to see how far they’ve come in their school careers and see their former teachers, but it also inspires younger students.
Since the idea was so well received in Newark in 2016, Roote proposed expanding the event this year to include three other schools.
So, immediately after the end-of-the-year awards assembly, graduates who attended Lincoln School boarded buses and seniors who attended Perkins were taken there. Once at the pre-K through second-grade schools, they walked through halls where excited children, many of them holding signs, cheered and applauded along with staff members. Some of the students gave teachers high fives or quick hugs as they went through the hallways.
After the walks at the elementary schools, all of the seniors went to Kelley School, where they were met by students and staff as upbeat music played on the public address system. After walking through the school hallways and the cafeteria, seniors exited the building and went to Perkins Park to eat pizza and cookies provided by NHS.
Seniors were later dropped off at the Woodlane entrance to NMS and walked up the hill to the excited cheers of NMS students and staff.
Immediately afterward, an ice cream social sponsored by the Newark senior class was held in the NHS cafeteria. There students ate sundaes served to them by senior class co-adviser Deborah Barry and school counselors, signed yearbooks and were given envelope “time capsules” they’d assembled in sixth grade from their teachers from NMS.
“It is hard to pin down one reason for doing a Cap and Gown Walk,” Roote said. “Simply put, there are hundreds of reasons to do the walk. Our staff appreciates seeing what the culmination of their efforts looks like in the form of a handshake or hug with a former student. Certainly, our underclassmen love knowing that payday is somewhere down the road. Like many of the events at this time of year, it is nice to be able to step away and just observe the joy in our kids, staff and families. Finally, connecting our kids with a sense of esprit de corps better connects them with their studies and the community.”
“The senior walk is a powerful way to recognize and celebrate in a very visible way how the Newark Central School District is the centerpiece of our community that binds students, staff, families and neighbors through a profound sense of hometown pride,” Hamelinck said. “While this celebration is in honor of our graduates, it is also all of us, as a district staff, that have guided our seniors to graduation as well, so we, too, also celebrate.”