“Cross the line if you’re excited about going to high school next year,” school counselor Kelly Gallegos told the eighth-grade girls standing behind a stripe on the North Middle School gym floor.

Around half of the roughly 50 girls took a step forward.

“Cross the line if you’re anxious about going to high school next year.”

The same number again stepped over the stripe.

In just a few days, the girls would be leaving middle school, heading to high schools across the city in the fall.

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Friday night’s “lock-in” as graduation approached was meant to show the girls that they weren’t alone, that others shared their worry over leaving behind what was familiar for the unknown, Gallegos said.

After the exercise, the girls split up into small groups to talk about how the game had made them feel. Each girl was sent home with a bag with items symbolizing lessons they could take with them to high school, from an eraser to a Life Savers mint.

Angie Santee, an eighth-grade science teacher at North, organized the first lock-in last year, and the results were “phenomenal,” she said.

“I feel like at our school, we have a lot of things that are geared toward helping the boys mature and find themselves, and we just really never had anything for the girls — there’s no mentoring group, anything like that,” Santee said.

She was inspired to organize the event after she took girls on three STEM-related field trips last school year.

“I was like, ‘We need to pull them together at the end and just give them a send-off where we build their self-esteem and we make sure they know we’re all here for them, we’re all cheering for them, even though we won’t see them on a daily basis anymore.’”

“We get a night without boys and siblings to be together here,” said Becca Frazer, who was sitting with other girls at a outdoor table. Her friends chimed in, saying they were taking advantage of the time they had left together because many of them would be attending different schools.

“I think the thing that drew me, at least, was just — when you go to middle school together, you kind of bond together for three years, and you love your ladies, you know?” said Adey Abraha. “And then you get to have a night just to chill with your ladies and have fun.”

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Ellie is a crime and breaking news reporter. She's a proud Midwesterner, stationery hoarder and Earl Grey tea enthusiast. After interning at The Gazette in 2015, she joined the newspaper's staff in 2016.

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