By Curt Yeomans and Johnny Jackson
Friday marked the passing of an era for many Clayton and Henry county students, as the 2009-2010 school year came to an end.
At two local schools, like many others across both counties, Friday was marked by teachers and administrators saying good-bye to students who were leaving to take the next step in their educational careers.
About 130 students at Red Oak Elementary School, in Stockbridge, made the leap toward middle school, according to Tameka McCrae-Edgecombe, a school counselor at Red Oak. Meanwhile, at M.D. Roberts Middle School, in Jonesboro, school officials said farewell to 236 eighth-graders during a "Moving On" ceremony in the school's gymnasium.
Students at both schools were awarded certificates of achievement in recognition of their accomplishments.
"I've watched you grow up since you were in sixth-grade, which was my first year as principal of this school, so I feel like a proud parent watching you guys move on today," M.D. Roberts Principal Charmine Johnson said at the end of her school's ceremony.
As the school year ended for Clayton County Public Schools and Henry County Schools, many youths from Red Oak Elementary School and M.D. Roberts Middle School said they were filled with mixed emotions about moving on.
"Half of me is happy to be leaving, and half of me is not," said now-former Red Oak fifth-grader, Shawn Singh, 10. "Part of me wants to make new memories. And the other half of me is sad, because I'll be leaving my teachers and classmates."
As part of the last day at Red Oak, the fifth-grade class participated in an annual schoolwide recognition, known as "The Walk," in which students turned a lap around the school. The 10- and 11-year-olds walked the hallways, as their younger peers lined the walls to bid them farewell.
"This provides a lasting memory for our students -- it is an emotional time, students and faculty shed tears," McCrae-Edgecombe said.
Outgoing fifth-grader, Kaelyn Smith, 11, said, "it was a good thing to do, because you get to say good-bye to all the people you've known throughout the years." Smith will attend Dutchtown Middle School next year.
Meanwhile, graduating M.D. Roberts Middle School eighth-grader, Aungelique Williams, 13, echoed some of the sentiments of her Henry County counterparts. "It's kind of sad to leave because you learn life lessons here in middle school, about how to be responsible for yourself," she said. She said she will attend Jonesboro High School next year.
Outgoing eighth-grader, Kierra Orr, 14, added, "I'm going to miss my teachers next year." She said she will attend Morrow High School next year.
During the ceremony at M.D. Roberts Middle School, Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough told the youths their community expects "great things from you." He also encouraged them to continuously work on improving themselves.
"You will move onward, and upward throughout your life," Kimbrough said. "High school will prepare you for college, which will prepare you to become a part of the work force. You are constantly preparing yourself for the next step in life. If you ever stop moving forward, you are just preparing yourself to die."
Williams and M.D. Roberts classmate, Ayodele Dare, also 13, said they plan to spend the summer having fun by going to the pool, and spending time with family and friends. They added, however, they are also going to spend the summer focusing on academics.
"I'm going to spend half of my time studying math and science, and half of my time enjoying playtime with my friends, this summer," said Dare, who received 18 academic and service awards from M.D. Roberts officials on Friday. He said he will attend Lovejoy High School next year, to participate in its International Baccalaureate program.
Williams said a lot of students are planning to do some studying this summer, simply to get a head start on the next year. She said she will be working with a math tutor this summer, to strengthen her skills in that subject area.
"It's partially because your ninth-grade year is crucial. If you mess up that year, it will hurt you the rest of your high school career," Williams said.
Meanwhile, Red Oak graduate, Kristal Chambless, 11, said she is nervous about the transition from elementary school, to middle school. She said she will attend Dutchtown Middle School in the fall.
"I think it will be confusing, but I'm going to be happy to meet new kids," said Chambless, who has plans to join the middle school's chorus.