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Colorado Springs graduating seniors hope to inspire younger students with cap and gown parade

May 17, 2017 Updated: May 18, 2017 at 6:08 am
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photo - Sand Creek senior Tara Butcher celebrates with eight-graders at Skyview Middle School Wednesday, May 17, 2017, during the high school's first-ever graduation walk.  About 100 members of the Class of 2017 visited all the elementary schools and middle schools that feed into the high school to celebrate and inspire the younger kids to graduate. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Sand Creek senior Tara Butcher celebrates with eight-graders at Skyview Middle School Wednesday, May 17, 2017, during the high school's first-ever graduation walk. About 100 members of the Class of 2017 visited all the elementary schools and middle schools that feed into the high school to celebrate and inspire the younger kids to graduate. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

The rumblings were distant and the murmurings near.

Something out of the ordinary was about to happen at Remington Elementary School Wednesday morning.

The distinctive sound of "Pomp and Circumstance" floated through the hallways, where every student in every grade sat along the walls. Some held posters or signs they had made, saying "Congrats to Seniors!," "Yay!" and "Class of 2017."

Hushed whispers climbed to a crescendo pitch, as Sand Creek High School seniors decked out in their caps and gowns paraded through the elementary school.

"They actually high-fived us," said second-grader Kyndall Enloe. "It was exciting and special."

Sand Creek senior Jordan Gernert leads a line of graduates through the halls of Remington Elementary as the grade-school students give them high fives Wednesday, May 17, 2017, during the high school's first-ever graduation walk. About 100 members of the Class of 2017 visited all the elementary schools and middle schools that feed into the high school to celebrate and inspire the younger kids to graduate. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

The Senior Walk is a new event for six schools in Falcon School District 49. Officials hope to make it an annual tradition.

"We thought it was a cool idea to bring the whole senior class together and get them excited about graduation and be inspirational to the younger generation," said Lauren Stuart, a Student Council sponsor for Sand Creek High.

In the middle of finals week, 100 of Sand Creek's 276 seniors hopped on buses and traveled to three nearby elementary schools and two middle schools.

Students at the lower-level schools lined up to greet the seniors, clapping, hollering and congratulating.

Some of the seniors hadn't returned to their alma maters since they had moved up the grade ladder.

"It brought back a lot of memories," said senior Tara Butcher. "It's crazy to think that at one point in my life, I was as small as the students there. It was blowing my mind, being able to see how far I've come."

Remington Elementary students and teachers greet Sand Creek seniors as they arrive at the Falcon School District 49 school Wednesday, May 17, 2017, during the first-ever graduation walk. About 100 members of the Class of 2017 visited the elementary schools and middle schools that feed into the high school to celebrate and inspire the younger kids to graduate. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

The screams and cheers did not fall on deaf ears.

"I wasn't really expecting anything, but to see everything and hear the students and teachers made me feel like I accomplished something really great," Butcher said.

Ali Malcolm, another Sand Creek Student Council advisor, said getting younger students revved up about earning a diploma is important.

"We want to inspire kids to see that it isn't so far off and it's something that's attainable and something they want to do," she said. "It's such a huge milestone in our lives."

Second-grade teacher Jodi Price has been working at Remington Elementary since the day it opened in 1996. She had some of the Sand Creek seniors in her classes way back when.

"We've talked about what it means to be a senior in high school, so they understand why we should be cheering for them," she said of her present-day class. "It's a huge life change, one that we want to applaud."

Seniors also handed out mini diplomas of appreciation to some of their former teachers.

"A couple of my old teachers gave me hugs," said senior Tanner Teeples. "It was nice to see them."

Senior Derek Russell said he enjoyed reflecting on his time in D-49, from when he started in kindergarten.

"It's a great way to celebrate 13 years of learning," he said of the event.

Russell gave mini diplomas to teachers with whom he had "made a genuine connection."

Remington Elementary students and teachers greet Sand Creek seniors as they march through the halls of the Falcon School District 49 school Wednesday, May 17, 2017, during the first-ever graduation walk. About 100 members of the Class of 2017 visited the elementary schools and middle schools that feed into the high school to celebrate and inspire the younger kids to graduate. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

"I want to thank them for being really important in my life and the profound impact they've had," he said. "It's easy to forget the teachers, and we shouldn't do that. I learned a lot from them."

Seniors Michaela Pesek and Amanda Schmid met in elementary school just down the road from Sand Creek High and have been best friends ever since.

The relationship was sealed in the third grade, when Pesek tried to remove a wayward eyelash from Schmid's cheek and accidentally hit her in the face.

The memory is enough to draw peals of laughter from the two.

When they started their freshman year at Sand Creek, the pair remember signing a poster promising they would graduate.

The big day is May 27, and they're on track to keep their vow.

"It's really cool," Pesek said. "We're actually going to do it."

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