By Jessica Steger, Current Staff
Long lost memories of precious recess and unappreciated nap time are about to resurface for the 2017 graduates of West Bend High Schools.
Seniors will receive a blast from the past May 31 when they embark on the West Bend School District’s first Graduation Walk.
Students will depart the high school campus in the morning on buses and head to their old elementary schools, as well as to Badger Middle School and Silverbrook Intermediate School. Participating students must be eligible to receive their cap and gown, as they will be wearing it for the Walk. In addition, students who did not attend an elementary school in the school district will still have the opportunity to board the buses and experience the Walk.
“I don’t want to say too much but there will be a celebration when they get back, and there will be a little surprise,” said Kerry Hughes, a Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports facilitator. PBIS, known locally as the Compass program, is a school-wide system dedicated to promoting positive behaviors.
The main theme of the Walk is celebration.
“It’s a celebration of our graduates and a way to celebrate our community and system as a whole,” Hughes said. “Graduates have a chance to remember and to inspire those kids that are going to be lining the hallways and saying, ‘hey, I’m going to get there, that’s going to be me.’”
The faculty at the elementary schools have been preparing for the occasion as well. Melissa Foss, a school counselor and internal PBIS coach at Decorah Elementary School, is involved in planning for the event.
“Kids are going to be standing in front of their lockers and the graduates are going to start at one end of the building and come through,” Foss said. “We are going to have some fourth grade cheerleaders kind of cheering them on. And we’re going to be playing some music and clapping and cheering as they go through. That’s our vision.”
As for the involvement of high school students, they will mostly be participating in the walk itself, save for a portion of the high school band.
“I think it’s a great idea, it’s super cool,” said Luke Schowalter, an East senior and drum major. Schowalter will lead the band in playing pep music upon the return of the seniors.
“It’s a celebration of our graduates and a way to celebrate our community and system as a whole.”
– Kerry Hughes, PBIS facilitator
The idea for the Graduation Walk came from the PBIS program’s desire to acknowledge the district’s achievements.
“It was born out of the district-wide PBIS team which includes all the coaches at the different levels, and we wanted a way to celebrate the whole system,” Hughes said. “And we thought what better way than to celebrate our graduates. Because it’s our system, it’s all of us working together.”
The idea itself came from the example of other districts, mainly from videos online. However, the West Bend School District is unique in that it is one of the largest districts to create a Graduation Walk. This is made possible from the enthusiasm of the PBIS team members.
“We all saw the value of it and the excitement, and just being able to inspire our kids at the elementary level to continue to dream and continue to hope that will be them some day,” Foss said. “It’s never too early to start having them aspire to meet their goals.”
Holding together the idea of the Graduation Walk is the purpose to celebrate the school system as a whole.
“I think it’s such a great testimony to just how awesome it is that our staff can come together and celebrate what we do together as a system, and the building blocks we create from elementary to high school,” Hughes said.
(Top image: A slide from a PBIS presentation shared May 12 with seniors.)