By Diane Glidewell
Early on Friday morning, Henderson Middle School held its traditional "Moving On" ceremony for 245 eighth-grade students who were leaving to attend Jackson High School next fall. The event was a celebration of the accomplishments of the eighth-graders, both during the 2009-2010 school year and throughout their three years as students at HMS.
It was also a prelude to the Jackson High School graduation, which took place that evening.
The HMS gymnasium was filled to capacity, leaving standing room only for proud students, faculty, family and friends. Eighth-grade Student Council President Jala Tomlinson welcomed those in attendance to "a day of laughter, tears and shouts," and said she will miss HMS and even miss hearing admonitions to tuck in shirts and put away cell phones.
As the HMS Band, directed by Eric Purser, played "Pomp and Circumstance," the eighth-graders marched into the gym dressed to admire -- the young men in black pants, white shirts and ties and some in suits, and the young ladies in black and white attire.
Student Council Vice President Olivia Garcia led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Chorus Director Stephen Bearden along with Purser played the national anthem as a trumpet duet. The HMS Chorus and the HMS Bell Choir provided a sample of their talents as well.
Keynote speeches were delivered by the three eighth-graders with the highest grade-point averages on their respective teams: Megan Conley, Stephanie Chan and Kayla Cato. Conley spoke of the meaning of success and of how she had achieved success through hard work and dedication.
Chan spoke of how much fun the years at HMS had been for the Class of 2014. She thanked her teachers and thanked her mother for working late with her on projects and teaching her responsibility. She also thanked her friends for great memories.
Cato said she never would have thought when she came to HMS that she would be standing on stage at "Moving On." She said HMS had raised her expectations and quoted Coach Obie Johnson's motto, "If it is to be, it's up to me." She urged others to excel as well.
The program moved to honoring others who had excelled as Butts County School Superintendent Lynda White presented Superintendent's Awards to students who had maintained an academic average of 93 or greater throughout the year.
Butts County School Board Member Linda Godin named the Student of the Year on behalf of Future Achievers. Megan Conley was chosen from among other HMS Students of the Month to receive a $200 Barnes & Noble gift certificate and $50 in cash.
Julia Farigan awarded Jala Tomlinson and Jared Smith Good Citizenship Awards on behalf of the William McIntosh Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Sandra Haisten recognized 22 eighth-graders for perfect attendance during the 2009-2010 school year on behalf of the Butts County Life Enrichment Team (LET) Board and collaborative members. She noted she had presented 77 perfect attendance awards this year at HMS and 261 all together to Butts County students.
Media Specialist Peggy Myers had the honor of naming the Coca-Cola Accelerated Reader Award winners. The top reader for this year's class was Nathan Roe, with 1,953.2 points. He received $225 and a large plaque commemorating his accomplishment. In second place was Michael Zuniga, who was awarded $175 and a plaque. Joseph Fox earned $125, and Emily Barnes was awarded $75.
After HMS Principal Jay Homan announced the Presidential Awards for high academic achievement, the presentation of graduation certificates to each member of the HMS eighth-grade class took place. Each student's name was called, and cheers and applause echoed through the gym as students walked across the stage.
In his closing remarks, Homan spoke about the special group of students who make up the "Moving On" class and the collective awards they received. In this class, 98 percent had passed the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) in reading and 87 percent of HMS students had passed in math.
This year the football, softball, and girls basketball teams made play-offs, and the baseball and girls track teams were region champions. The HMS spelling champion became the top speller for the school system, and HMS took five out of the top 10 spots in regional math competition, including first place. Band, chorus and the hand bell choir earned Superior ratings in competition, and HMS had several regional science fair winners. Homan said that while it will not be definite until October, there is reason to believe HMS will be named a Title I School of Excellence.
Finally came the recessional, and the HMS eighth-graders left middle school as a class for the last time.