PQ Elementary holds graduation ceremonies for 5th graders

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Pequenakonck Elementary 5th graders pose in front of the school's new "be kind" mural at graduation. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

In September of 2015, they were learning how to separate from their parents. Now, they are learning how to separate from the place that has become their second home. This week, Pequenakonck Elementary School held graduation celebrations for its 70 fifth grade students who will move up to middle school in September.

For the first time ever, fifth grade graduation was held outdoors on the front lawn of the school. Each of the four fifth grade classes held individual ceremonies, a move designed to comply with COVID restrictions, but one that worked out perfectly thanks to Mother Nature’s cooperation. District administrators attended, including Superintendent Ken Freeston and Asst. Superintendent Julio Vazquez.

PQ teachers and administrators recognize graduating 5th graders. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

Ceremonies began with a student-led pledge of allegiance, followed by speeches delivered by three students from each class. Leah Nissman said that attending PQ was “one of the best experiences of my life,” and detailed the important life lessons she gained from each teacher she had through her years at the school. “Mrs. Lodewick taught me that learning is hard but you can always keep trying,” Nissman said.

In his speech, Drew Karam noted that he and his classmates, “earned an extra degree in perseverance.”

5th grader Drew Karam with his parents. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

William Graham thanked Mrs. Tait for preparing him and his classmates for middle school. Tait, who has had a tremendous impact on the students of North Salem, is retiring after a near 30-year career. Mrs. Johnson remarked that, “helping students find a path to purpose is one of the noblest aspects of teaching.”

In a quip that captured what every parent in attendance was thinking as they gazed upon their children, Riley Carroll said, “wow, we got old really fast.”

PQ 5th graders gather following graduation ceremonies. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

Following student speeches, Principal Johnson delivered an address that outlined three “big ideas.” First, she talked about the importance and power of learning, noting how students had to find new ways of learning through the pandemic. “We learned that it’s ok to say, ‘I don’t know,’ Johnson said. Johnson’s second big idea focused on the importance of relationships. She pointed out that students spent more time with their families in the past year than they may ever have the opportunity to do again in their lifetimes. Last, Johnson talked about the importance of “just being nice to everyone.” She remarked on how powerful it had been for students and staff simply to exchange friendly eye contact in a masked world.

The PQ class of 2021 will move on to North Salem Middle School rich with lessons learned and relationships formed in elementary school. Many of these students identify with the sentiments of Isabella Wilson, who said in her speech, "school here was amazing."

Click below for a photo gallery from HudValley Photo.

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