Schools in Portal held their very first graduation walk at Portal Elementary on Friday for the Class of 2017.
The close-knit, 55-member graduating class of Portal Middle High School has been together since their pre-kindergarten days at the neighboring elementary school. Friday's walk was a chance for the senior class to reminisce, hug former elementary teachers, encourage their younger peers and enjoy a special reception in their honor.
The graduates were greeted by faculty, staff and students, including Dr. Debbie Cartee, the school's music teacher, who, like many faculty members, taught them for seven years from prekindergarten through fifth grade.
"These are my babies," Cartee said, as the entire line of graduates each stopped to give her a hug.
After weaving their way down each grade level's hallway while "Pomp and Circumstance," played over the building's public address system, the seniors joined the elementary school students in the gym.
There, Dr. Laurie Mascolo, principal of Portal Elementary, spoke briefly about working hard to attain success. Mascolo also used the time to reward her students for their hard work on the recent Georgia Milestones Assessments.
She challenged the children to do their best, and if they did, one student would get to cut her ponytail.
"It doesn't take much work to grow my hair," Mascolo said. "But it does take work to grow you. We are proud of your success and the success of the Portal High graduates."
Also, the graduates were treated to a special reception. Faculty at Portal Elementary made a bulletin board in the cafeteria that featured the Class of 2017's prekindergarten through fifth-grade class pictures.
The board was a big hit, along with a graduation cake and a gift cup filled with goodies and their high school graduation picture.
"They (PES faculty) really went all out," said Portal High Principal Patrick Hill.
The new graduation walk tradition came about as a result of the collaboration between new principals Hill and Mascolo and their faculty. The two neighboring schools have worked together in the 2016-17 school year on a number of events for fine arts and Veterans Day.
Portal High’s graduation is set for Friday at 7 p.m., at the Portal Athletic Complex stadium. The ceremonies will be streamed live on statesboroherald.com.