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Valley News Dispatch

Walk down memory lane inspires New Kensington-Arnold graduates, grade-schoolers and teachers

Madasyn Czebiniak
| Tuesday, May 29, 2018, 4:39 p.m.
Roy A. Hunt Elementary School teacher Joe Melnick hugs Valley High School seniors as they visit their elementary schools on May 29, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Roy A. Hunt Elementary School teacher Joe Melnick hugs Valley High School seniors as they visit their elementary schools on May 29, 2018.
Valley High School seniors converse while waiting for their bus to depart as they visit their elementary schools on May 29, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Valley High School seniors converse while waiting for their bus to depart as they visit their elementary schools on May 29, 2018.
Martin Elementary School students line the hallway and play kazoos as Valley High School seniors visit their elementary schools on May 29, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Martin Elementary School students line the hallway and play kazoos as Valley High School seniors visit their elementary schools on May 29, 2018.
Martin Elementary School students line the hallway and play kazoos as Valley High School seniors visit their elementary schools on May 29, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Martin Elementary School students line the hallway and play kazoos as Valley High School seniors visit their elementary schools on May 29, 2018.

Members of the Valley High School Class of 2018 took a walk down memory lane Tuesday.

More than 70 seniors, sporting their black and gold graduation caps and gowns, were met with cheers and applause from administrators, teachers, and bright-eyed, bushy-tailed grade-schoolers as they traversed the hallways of Roy A. Hunt Elementary School, H.D. Berkey School, and Martin Elementary School, where some of their school careers first began.

"I got a little emotional — I'm not going to lie," senior Rachel Odrey, 18, of New Kensington said. "It was hard to see all those little kids there and seeing how time goes by really quickly.

"They should just enjoy their time while they're there. Stay young while they can."

This was the first year the district held such an event, which was meant to give seniors a chance to reflect on where they came from and younger students a chance to see what their futures could hold.

Administrators said they got the idea from the district's elementary teachers, who saw another school do something similar on Facebook.

They hope that it is something that will become a long-standing tradition.

"We hope that the elementary kids, they see that end goal," high school Principal Pat Nee said. "They see these older kids that they look up to coming through the building, and they realize that at some point, they're going be experiencing that."

There are 125 seniors in this year's graduating class. Commencement is Thursday.

Students at the three schools had different ways of expressing their admiration for the visiting seniors. At Roy A. Hunt, where the procession began, the seniors received claps, cheers and "fist bumps" as they marched down the halls. At H.D. Berkey, they were welcomed with a barrage of yellow noisemakers. At the final location, Martin Elementary School, some students fiddled with noisemakers while others held printouts bearing the Valley Vikings logo and the words "Class of 2018." Each school also played "Pomp and Circumstance."

Martin Elementary student Lucy Yurga, 6, went above and beyond for her sister Abby — she made a homemade sign to congratulate her on her accomplishment. The two sisters shared a hug as Abby walked by with her class. A few other seniors hugged Lucy, as well.

"My sister's really smart, and her friends are really great," Lucy said. "I like them all so much."

Abby Yurga said she enjoyed being with her friends and seeing her little sister, even if she got "a little bit hot and sweaty" during the procession.

"I love my little sister so much," Yurga, 18, of New Kensington said. "Just seeing her and seeing the smile on her face made my heart just (grow). It was so much fun."

Students weren't the only ones excited about the walk. Samantha Isaac, a fifth-grade teacher at Roy, said she held up the line giving all her former students hugs and fist bumps.

"The reason I love my job is to see those kids," she said. "When they remember you, it's just the best feeling. Just seeing them being successful and graduating — it's just nice for everybody."

Lorin Ervin, a kindergarten teacher at Martin, was one of the people who approached district officials about doing the walk, which she said was a collaborative effort.

She has a nephew who is graduating this year and has two children of her own in the district — a fifth-grader and a seventh-grader. She said her children look up to the seniors, and she hopes the district will continue holding the walk in the future.

"I saw many former students, which, as a teacher, is your pride and joy," she said. "Just to kind of follow them through their year, and this is the finale I thought was really nice."

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702, mczebiniak@tribweb.com or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib.

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