Last day full of emotion for middle schoolers

June 08, 2010|By DAN DEARTH
  • Kelbaugh

HAGERSTOWN -- Making the transition from the eighth grade to high school isn't always easy.

Freshmen have to navigate their way around a new building, put up with hazing from upper classmen and get used to life without seeing friends who transferred to different schools.

Tuesday marked the end of the 2009-10 academic year for Washington County Public Schools students. Among those were 1,700 eighth-graders who bid farewell to their place at the top of the middle school pecking order to begin next year at the very bottom.

As the day drew to a close, dozens of eighth-graders filled the cafeteria at Western Heights Middle School to say good-bye. Many of them shared hugs, wiped away tears and signed T-shirts to commemorate the end of another chapter in their young lives.

"The last day of school was emotional," said Joshua Kelbaugh, 15. "I cried today. I'm not going to lie."


Despite standing 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing 210 pounds, Joshua confessed that he probably would be anxious to start his freshman year at South Hagerstown High School.

"I'll probably be nervous seeing new people and making new friends," he said.

Joshua said he plans to lift weights this summer to get in shape for football. If everything goes well, he said he hopes to make the varsity team as a freshman.

Joshua's classmate, Utshudiandjeka Lungange, 14, said he also intends to get in shape for football.

Utshudiandjeka, whose friends call him Junior, said he recently moved to Hagerstown from New York City. He credited his sense of humor as one of the reasons that the other students accepted him.

"I don't know what to expect in high school," he said, "I'm going to miss some of the teachers."

Western Heights Middle School Principal Stephen P. Tarason said it was hard to watch the eighth-graders move on.

"You build those bonds, but you have to let go," he said. "You have another group coming in."

Tarason said about 70 percent of the eighth-graders go to North Hagerstown High School, and 30 percent go to South Hagerstown High School.

As a result, some of the students will be separated from classmates they have known since the beginning of middle school.

Incoming South Hagerstown High School freshman Ashlee Miller, 13, said she will miss her best friend Kristin Weaver, who is bound for North Hagerstown High School.

"We've been best friends since sixth grade," Ashlee said. "We see each other every day. Leaving her will be hard. As soon as the bell rings, I'm probably going to cry."

Ashlee said she believed that her outgoing personality would help her meet new friends in high school.

"As long as I keep my grades in order and stay on task, I'll be fine," she said.

Jaholda McCormack, 14, said she is preparing to tackle the tougher academics in high school.

She said it was easy to find friends at Western Heights Elementary School when she moved to Hagerstown last year from New Jersey.

"It was kind of weird when I came here," Jaholda said. "I didn't try to make friends because I missed my old ones."

Jaholda said she wants to spend a good portion of the summer working to earn money for college.

"I've always wanted a job -- just to save up," she said. "College is expensive."

Joshua, Utshudiandjeka, Ashlee and Jaholda said they wanted to give the next batch of eighth-graders a piece of advice: Pay attention, work hard and don't use your cell phone in Mr. Hibbert's class.

"He'll take it," Ashlee said.

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