Graduating students take part in Pelham’s annual Senior Walk

Published 3:50 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

PELHAM – With graduation taking place for seniors at Pelham High School next month, 12th grade students engaged in a celebratory tour that also took the majority of them down memory lane on Tuesday, April 23.

In one of Pelham City School’s longest held and most anticipated annual traditions, students in Pelham High School’s senior class loaded up on busses and took part in a day that sought to acknowledge and award them for reaching one of the most momentous milestones in education.

“It is always a fantastic day for our seniors,” Pelham High School Principal Kim Kiel said. “Starting with the senior luncheon, it’s a day to celebrate those students being in school for 12 years. It is a pretty big deal and having the opportunity to be celebrated for their senior year is special.”

With three stops along the tour, the senior class first visited Railroad Park in Birmingham for the chance to take individual and group pictures with their teachers and fellow classmates.

“(After the park) we loaded them back on the bus and then they went to The Florentine,” Kiel said. “It is a fantastic place where we all had lunch together and celebrated them.”

While at the luncheon, the seniors were able to hear words of encouragement and acknowledgement toward their many achievements and hard work. James Spann, chief meteorologist for ABC 33/40, served as the luncheons keynote speaker and later stood taking pictures and meeting with many of the students individually.

Following the luncheon, the seniors were able to once again board their busses and have their next destinations split between Pelham Ridge and Pelham Oaks Elementary School to take part in the Class of 2024’s Senior Walk.

“The graduation walk is a tradition that Pelham has had in place for a very long time,” Kiel said. “The elementary school kids line the halls and our senior kids get to walk the halls—many of which have the opportunity to go back and see some of their teachers. It is an unbelievable opportunity to see the smiling faces of our seniors as well as on the teachers at our elementary schools.”

At Pelham Ridge Elementary, roughly 800 young students lined the halls and stood ready to cheer on the seniors as they marched through the celebration, many of which held out their hands for high-fives and handshakes from the parading seniors.

“This year’s senior class is really special to me as this is my fourth year as a principal,” Kiel said. “These students and I came in together and so this first group is a special class to me. They started (at the high school) in 2020 and it was a struggle for everyone during COVID. I’m just so proud of them and their resiliency and I am just looking forward to celebrating them again during graduation and seeing the wonderful things that they continue to do in their lives.”

Despite that hard road to get to their final few weeks at Pelham High School and with Pelham City Schools in general, the students all wore smiles as catching as their green caps and gowns as they made their way through the elementary school halls.

“When the (graduating students) walk through they get to see their former teachers and then we get to clap,” Pelham Ridge Principal Lisa Baxter said. “It is really motivating for the kids who get to watch and think that they will get to do this one day.”

For Assistant Principal Khadidr Jones at Pelham Ridge Elementary School, the experience also held special significance.

“This (group of seniors) was my last class before I came out of the classroom,” Jones said. “It was just very heartwarming to see how they’ve grown and to see their accomplishments. You follow them along throughout the years so it is just really huge (for the teachers) and it is really good for our younger students to see the future.”

Jones took the time to meet with a number of the soon to graduate seniors before their departure back to the high school, and took pictures with a number of her former students who she taught during the 2016-2017 school year.

“The class here today—that just walked the halls—they were the first class to go to this building,” Jones said. “That was the year that we first came to this building. They were the first fifth grade class.”

Jones also carried a number of photographs showing the now graduating students as they looked during their time in the halls of Pelham Ridge. With a crowd of excited seniors gathering to say hello, Jones took several minutes to meet personally with the students before they got back onto the bus.

“I was taking pictures with them and they were all very excited,” Jones said. “We love doing this every year. Our kids look forward to it, the high school kids look forward to it and I look forward to it. I’ve been able to see all of my classes graduate. It’s amazing.”

Other visiting seniors were also able to congregate around the carpool area before their departure and were allowed several minutes to visit with their former teachers and educators whose input brought them forward toward their impending graduation.

“It comes quick too,” one graduating senior said. “I remember going to this school and now I’m graduating.”