Students and parents from all grade levels packed into the Bishop Seabury Academy gymnasium Friday morning to congratulate the graduating class of 2013.
But the ceremonies at Seabury aren’t just for the seniors. Instead, it’s an all-school event where each class goes through a ritual of “stepping up” — a ritual where each class in the school is recognized to advance to the next level, as they greet the younger class behind them, and then are greeted in turn by the older class ahead.
“I guess stepping up is supposed to be pretty emotional,” said Kenn Peters, who was preparing to witness it for the first time, as his son Seth was about to step up to ninth grade. “So this is like the step from junior high to high school. We’ll probably come back for his graduation.”
But the most emotional part of the ceremony came when this year’s juniors stepped up to become seniors, and the graduates in their caps and gowns walked past, hugging each one individually.
That’s when the juniors took the empty chairs where the seniors had been, and the graduates stood to be greeted individually by each of the faculty members.
“Wishing them (the juniors) good luck was kind of surreal, because I know exactly what’s going to happen to them next year,” said graduating senior Emily Padgett, who plans to attend Duke University. “It’s me being this older person saying, ‘I believe in you and I know what’s coming.’ It’s kind of crazy that I’m the one who can tell them that.”
For parents who have watched the ritual year after year since their children were in sixth grade, it can be an emotional experience.
That was doubly true for Jami and Sarah Sweeney. Jami’s twin son and daughter, Taylor and Austin, went through the ceremony together for the last time.
“They’re having a bittersweet day too,” Jami said. “They’re going to miss this place a lot, but they’re ready get to the next spot.” Both twins plan to attend Texas Christian University.
Doug Weaver, drama teacher at Seabury, said the class of 2013 has been remarkable in many ways.
“They’ve always been unique since seventh grade,” he said. “They’ve done so many different kinds of things. There are amazing actors in there, fabulous athletes, incredibly smart kids — they’re just a brilliant mix of everything you could want.”
But Weaver holds out even more optimism for the class of 2014.
“The junior class may be even smarter,” he said. “They’re probably a little more serious. They’re more focused on academics than this senior class, but not quite as diverse and widespread.”