Leaving an impression: THS seniors say goodbye during annual Parade of Graduates

Published 5:36 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2024

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Graduation music echoed throughout the hallways of Creek View Elementary School as children excitedly counted down to welcome in the Thompson High School class of 2024 for one final hurrah before commencement.

A group of 563 THS seniors had the opportunity to partake in one of the school system’s beloved traditions by visiting all of Alabaster City Schools during the Parade of Graduates on Friday, May 3.

“The Parade of Graduates has become one of the most anticipated events for our senior class,” ACS Counselor Pam Vickers said. “Visiting the campuses where they received their foundations is an emotional, yet fitting, time of remembrance for each of them. Our faculty and staff members enjoy this event, as well.”

Small, touching reunions took place throughout Alabaster City Schools as familiar faces and teachers got to say goodbye to students that are now grown and ready to depart to the next stage in their careers.

“It’s a great day of laughter, tears, hugs and smiles,” Vickers said. “It’s memorable for our kindergarten parents, too, with their students also participating in the parade. The next 12 years will pass quickly and before these moms and dads know it, their little ones will grow up and be ready to graduate from high school. It’s a day no one will soon forget.”

THS senior Gunner Atkins was present for the parade and commented on what the moment meant to him after completing the first stop of the day at CVES.

“I remember watching the graduates walk through when I was a kid (and) it’s just kind of a surreal experience to be in the real gown now and really (be) graduating,” Atkins said. “I accomplished everything I wanted to in high school, so it feels good. I feel prepared to go to the next level and to go to college.”

To THS Senior Carter Mcgraw, the event served as a moment to bring the Alabaster community together.

“It’s about getting out into the community, getting everyone in participation,” he said. “A lot of us have gone here most of our lives—if not our whole lives—so we know a lot of people in the schools like teachers and younger students and (it’s about) just getting everybody involved in graduation.”

The Parade of Graduates also served as a moment of reflection for many of the teachers, faculty and staff of Alabaster City Schools who have spent countless hours watching these students mature and develop.

“I love the tradition of the THS Parade of Graduates,” CVES Principal Charissa Cole said. “Last year, we added our kindergarten students to the parade of graduates. Our parents, teachers and community love celebrating this milestone in our student’s lives. This year’s parade of graduates was personally very special to me. The 2024 graduating class were third graders my first year as principal, 2014-2015. I am grateful to be a part of this incredible tradition.”

For some students that day, the pair of outstretched arms they encountered in the hallway not only belonged to a familiar faculty member, but to an important family member.

For Meadow View Elementary School Principal Michelle Brakefield, the parade was not only a celebration of her students but of her own sons.

“The Parade of Graduates has always been special and emotional,” Brakefield said. “However, this year’s parade, beginning with our kindergarteners and ending with our seniors, showed me how my boys have come full circle. Shep and Wynn went to kindergarten at MVES—actually kindergarten through third grade—and I remember it like it was yesterday.”

Brakefield recalled how back then they were excited to come to school like their older brother and how their backpacks were just as big as they were. She also said that, as teachers’s children, they would often spend late afternoons playing in the hallways or classrooms due to their mother having to work late.

Now, all these years later, the same two boys walked through the hallways with a specific purpose in mind.

“This year, as they walked through the doors, they immediately started scanning the hallways for their former teachers who loved them so well,” Brakefield said. “This year, I walked the parade route with them and got to see it through their eyes. The joy on their faces when teachers called their names and asked to take photos with them left an impression on my heart that I will never forget.”

In addition to providing a space for ensuring students are given the tools to navigate the coming future, the school system also left them with memories to cherish as they depart to the next step in their lives.

“I am proud that my boys went through all of it with the teachers in Alabaster City Schools, who love and care and nurture and then educate them,” Brakefield said. “Friday was a beautiful culminating event to showcase all of it.”