Leaving the security of elementary and middle school, places where young people have spent their entire educational experience thus far, and preparing to begin high school can be both scary and thrilling. Typically, ceremonies help students and teachers close one chapter and start a new one.

But this year has been an exception with COVID-19. Health and safety precautions have prohibited the traditional award ceremonies, end-of-year celebrations, graduations and in-person goodbyes to teachers and fellow students, but that hasn’t stopped the celebration of the achievements of Skamania School’s eighth grade graduates.

“Things look different this year because of the pandemic, but we’re celebrating these amazing young people in new ways,” said Dr. Ralph Pruitt, superintendent of Skamania School.

Non-traditional celebrations for Stephen, Jackie, Parker, Katilyn, Annalynn, Gabe, Jaycee and Drake have included individual shout-outs on the Parent-Teacher Organization Facebook page, sharing of their favorite memories at Skamania and photos from remote learning, and will include a celebration video released on June 19th.

The group has been together in the same educational cadre since kindergarten. They’ve spent the last two years with Shelly Carlton, Skamania’s seventh and eighth-grade teacher and she’s sad she won’t get to say a proper farewell, but they’re making the best of things.

“They’re a very social group and really miss being at school with their friends,” Mrs. Carlton said, “but I know they’re prepared academically [for high school] and will do great wherever they go.”

While this has been a challenging way end to their time at the school, these students have had some great memories to look back on.

They’ve experienced a lot together. They formed strong friendships. They dressed up for Spirit Week. They joined Drama Club. They participated in the Robotics Program and attended robotics competitions. They had class auctions. They conquered math problems, reading lists and spelling tests.

They’ve helped plant and grow plants for the annual plant sale. There was a STEM project where they learned how zip-lines work and then the follow-up, real-life experience of a full ropes course and zip-line at Skamania Lodge.

To celebrate Skamania School’s 150-year anniversary this year, the students went back in time to learn and teach each other dances from decades past. They learned classics such as East Coast Swing, the Hand Jive, the Twist and the Hustle. The Hustle was by far the most popular, and even Mrs. Carlton joined in on the fun!

They also wrote and performed a skit from the 1950s at the school celebration event. “It was a good project that required every student to do their part to pull it all together. I’m proud of these students and how it turned out,” Mrs. Carlton said.

While the year did not turn out as anyone expected, it marks a milestone in the lives of Skamania School students, closing a chapter on their academic time. Congratulations Stephen, Jackie, Parker, Katilyn, Annalynn, Gabe, Jaycee and Drake! The staff at Skamania School is extremely proud of you and will miss you. As Mrs. Carlton says, “remember to do your work, and turn it in!”