Time to take the next step

Courtesy photo
STEPPING INTO HIGH SCHOOL—Coal City Middle School promoted its eighth grade class to high school last week. In lieu of a traditional ceremony, middle school principal Travis Johnson set aside two days—June 24 and June 25—for students and their parents to stop by the high school to take a walk across the stage, accept their promotion certificate and pose for photos. With his parents and sisters looking on, Colten Sztapka marked the milestone in his academic career by accepting his certificate from Johnson on June 24.


As Coal City Middle School student council president Ava Houston pointed out, speeches are to be given in-person. However, that was not how the final address was delivered to the eighth grade class.

Houston was scheduled to deliver the welcome address at her eighth grade promotion ceremony, but as she said, “the coronavirus has changed that.”

The virus altered a number of things for Houston and her fellow classmates in the final months of the school year.

“As we should all know, we have had to change from going to a building every day with students and teachers to doing school in our homes through computers,” Houston said, noting there were athletes who were unable to finish their seasons and events that didn’t take place.

And, she didn’t get the chance to stand before her peers to deliver a promotion speech that encourages each member of the class to make decisions with their best interests in mind.

As Houston and her fellow classmates leave middle school, principal Travis Johnson encouraged them to reflect on lessons learned in the last few months.

“Take advantage of the opportunities given to you. You need to do this because you never know when your opportunity may be taken away. Don’t wait for things to happen, go out and make things happen for you and your classmates,” he said in what was to be his speech to the class on the day of their promotion to high school.

Johnson would tell the class to be committed, be courageous and be compassionate.

“Don’t be afraid to carry and conduct yourself in a way that makes you, your parents and family proud of what you do and what you become,” Johnson said.

The speeches of the principal and student council president, as well as the presentation of academic awards did not take place in front of a standing room only crowd this year.

“While we have all given up something, it was to better ourselves and keep our families safe,” Houston said.

Although the traditional promotion ceremony did not take place, the school wanted to ensure the students had an opportunity to put closure on their middle school years by taking a walk across the stage signifying their move to high school.

On Thursday, June 25 and Friday, June 26, members of the eighth grade class were provided an opportunity to put on their graduation gowns and take a walk across the stage.

One by one the students were called into the high school gymnasium to take the walk and have pictures taken with their families.

As they exited the school, until they return as high school freshman in August, Johnson wished them luck and encouraged them to always to their best and to make their mark on the world.

“You are ready for your next step in your education and I know that many of you will make a positive difference during your high school years,” Johnson said.

“I am excited to see the amazing things the class of 2024 will do for the next four years. Now it is time to take the next steps in our journey and build our futures,” Houston said.