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A Special Day – Possibly New Traditions – For SSHS Seniors

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A formal commencement ceremony is scheduled next Friday evening to officially signal the end of the Sulphur Springs Class of 2021’s high school education. The Sulphur Springs senior class also enjoyed one last chance to hang out together as a class during Senior Shut-Out Friday. However, Sulphur Springs High School spent Thursday celebrating the 12th graders’ successes with honors and awards programs and activities all day Thursday, including a few new activities that class sponsors said could become new senior traditions.

Things kicked off Thursday morning with the annual Honors Breakfast, a long-standing tradition to honor the graduates ranked in the top 10 percent of the SSHS senior class and to allow each honor graduate to recognize a special teacher or education who has impacted his or her life. The day concluded with an academic awards program during which scholarships are presented and outstanding students are recognized.

What wasn’t traditional was having the SSHS students take complete responsibility for the morning program, nor was the time and name of the awards program. Everything in between was a new, one born out of necessity and the others designed as fun ways to celebrate the SSHS seniors’ accomplishments in graduating and plans for the next chapter of life, and allow the other students to help.

Breakfast Preparation

Students from multiple career and technology classes did a fabulous job collaborating to make the Honors Breakfast a unique and special occasion for this year’s top 10 percent.

Christina Davis’ interior design classes decorated and planned the event, utilizing prepared contributions from the several other CTE programs, to turn the Civic Center

Tables set and prepared by SSHS construction, interior design, culinary, design and multimedia, and plant science classes

Heath Gammill’s construction provided center pieces Lyndsey Arthur’s plant science classes put together. The students moved the podium and from it’s traditional location and turned the room around, replacing the old long connected tables with round tables and chairs in the Civic Center Exhibit Hall.

Jordan Owen’s digital communications videoed and put the speakers and recipients on the big screens to make the “stage” area visible to even those seated at the tables farthest from the podium and handled all media matters.

Megan Tingle’s design and multimedia classes constructed programs with not only the order of program but also with a page for each of this year’s honor graduate including a photo, the college the honoree plans to attend, their major and school logo, why their teacher was chosen and a list of their activities, awards they have received and honors. The program also included the school alma mater, district and campus officials and credit to Alliance Bank for sponsoring the breakfast.

Lyndsay Palmer’s culinary classes prepared the quiche on each plate as well as fruits, muffins and breakfast sweets that graced each table for honorees and school officials to choose from, eliminating the serving lines of the past.

Drinks were available at a table near the front door, but the arrangement reduced the need for additional social distancing measures a traditional serving line would have required. All food was on the honoree’s table to choose from, with the main course, a spinach quiche, already on a plate at each place at the table.

Honor graduates, parents and special guests at the 2021 Honors Breakfast

Senior Walk, Signing Day

SSHS Counselor and senior sponsors adapted the Reach Higher initiative promoted by Michelle Obama to encourage everyone to reach higher for our young people. Obama’s initiative encouraged all SSISD students to complete there education and reach past high school. Schools and communities were encouraged to hold “college signing days” to celebrate students’ decisions to pursue higher education for better opportunities in competitive economy.

In the past, SSHS has held signing days for athletes who will be playing sports for colleges an universities, and band students selected to perform as part of marching bands, ensembles and other groups at schools of higher education. Family and consumer science teachers and Texas AgriLife Extension have even partnered to host FCS signing days for students who will be continuing their education in related fields.

This year, the SSHS counselors utilized the room reserved at the Civic Center for the 7 a.m. Honors Breakfast and evening Senior Awards program to host a signing day and class sponsors organized a Senior Walk.

The Senior Walk began around 1 p.m., with all seniors who were interested encouraged to sign up to board a bus to visit one of district’s elementary campuses. Approximately 130 SSHS seniors met in the high school library during the noon hour with their caps and gowns to participate. Where possible, students who attended SSISD for their elementary years were able to sign up to visit their former primary or elementary campus. Because not all schools had an even number of students signed up to visit, some students volunteers and others were assigned to the various campuses.

Wearing caps and gowns, they then walked the halls at a primary or elementary campus, which were lined with students and teachers. Some younger students made signs and held them up, letting the seniors know how proud they were of them for completing high school, to offer congratulations and bests wishes on their next endeavors.

The younger students were excited to see the seniors, reaching out hands for a passing touch from the seniors, as if greeting rock stars or celebrities as they arrived at a concert of major event. The elementary students then went back to classes where seniors greeted them to offer encouragement for that they too can reach graduation and achieve whatever future goal they desire with hard work and determination. The seniors answered any questions the students might have for the graduates and even accepted a few hugs and joined in a quick class activity or two, including a dance and song in a primary music class.

The seniors then loaded back onto their buses, where they were destined to take a walk at middle school, to offer even more words of encouragement and support for the students in grades 6-8.

Afterward, the seniors then returned at roughly 3 p.m. to the SSHS campus, where they then made a stroll through their halls, a reminder to the 9th-11th graders that they too can achieve their goals, graduate and continue their education or use certifications they have earned in high school to go to work. A small section from the band greeted the seniors as they stepped off the bus onto the sidewalk to reenter the campus. The cheerleaders lined entryway as the seniors entered the building, still in caps and gowns, forming a cheering line of welcome for them to walk through.

Some students and staff members had stepped into the halls to welcome the seniors, clapping and shaking noise makers in celebration of the seniors accomplishment. Afterward, the students then again exited through the same door on the gray day and were greeted by a number of parents and family members who stood to cheer on the seniors with signs, cheering and clapping as they made their way to the Civic Center.

Not even infrequent rain dampened the seniors’ enthusiasm on their special day as they dodged puddles, streams of water and mist and light precipitation as they traveled in a sea of blue gowns to the Civic Center for “Signing Day.”

The room had been preconformed from their earlier configuration at the Honors Breakfast. Tables were organized around the perimeter of the room with college logos with seniors’ names below them adorning the wall behind them.

On each table were stickers with college logos which the students were encouraged to write their names on. The seniors then stuck their name on the “SSHS Class of 2021 Wall of Graduates,” a huge poster on the wall to the left of the main stage, a tangible sign of the students’ choices to “reach higher.”

Some parents and families joined their graduates at the SSHS “Signing Day” event to show excitement for their children’s future choices. Many took pictures of their graduates, quite a few who remained in their graduation caps and gowns to “sign” with their future school or training program. Each senior then stuck the sticker with their name and school on the Wall of Graduates. Several students went together to do their signing at the same time to show solidarity and excitement that each will be going to the same school. Others looked for stickers for their chosen school and placed their stickers together, forming a few small clusters. Parents and students were encouraged to document the signing and the students’ official place on the Wall of Graduates with photos.

Those attending and participating were encouraged to wear college, university, trade school and military t-shirts and apparel to show support for the senior’s school of choice or their own alma maters.

A video was composed showing students talking about their post secondary career choices, whether to attend a professional training program, a community college, four year-college or university, or a branch of the US Armed Forces. The video then played on multiple screens located in the Civic Center Exhibit Hall room.

The SSHS College and Career Director and counselors handed out cords for various designations the students will wear with their caps and gowns during graduation Friday evening, May 28, at Gerald Prim Stadium

As the students waited for the Senior Awards program, counselors announced that there was still a little bit of money leftover in the fund and began drawing names, with various amounts awarded to the seniors – but they had to be present to claim the funds when their name was called.

Awards Ceremony

Typically, the annual awards program is held at 7 p.m. on the same day as the Honors Breakfast. The Annual Academic/Scholarship Awards Ceremony has often taken place in the SSHS Auditorium at the Civic Center and has been held in the gymnasium a few times and in recent years. The ceremony also in many years has included recognition of other SSHS students earning academic honors throughout the year, including participants and students earning UIL and band contests and who made the Honor Rolls.

Over the years, the program has been paired down to include mostly scholarship announcements and recognition of students earning high academic honors. This year’s program was a Senior Awards Ceremony which included presentation of scholarships and recognition of the Class of 2021 Honor Graduates and UIL scholars, and senior state academic UIL qualifiers.

Due to a scheduling conflict with the intended venue, the ceremony was held in the Civic Center Exhibit Hall, configured to accommodate presenters for the awards ceremony, held at 4:30 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.

Author: Faith Huffman

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