Lakota parades celebrate graduates, encourage younger students

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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For 1st time Lakota seniors parade through area elementary schools in their caps and gowns.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

For the first time, every student in Lakota Local Schools’ 10 elementaries has gotten a chance to high-five and cheer on cap-and-gown-clad seniors parading by their classrooms.

The new “Parade of Graduates” program went over big Monday, with thousands of grade school students who formed human tunnels of encouragement in their schools.

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The youngsters waved hand-made signs of congratulations as seniors from Lakota East and Lakota West high schools marched triumphantly through elementary hallways.

The younger students also wrote letters of advice — including: “study hard” and “don’t forget about Lakota” — for the graduates, handing them out as the teens strolled by.

“Today was so, so amazing and everyone was so enthusiastic,” said Lakota East senior Paige Bentley after parading through the crowd at Hopewell Elementary Monday morning.

“This was so much fun and all the kids were so cute. I loved it. It’s nice to know you have so many people excited for you,” said Bentley, who will attend Princeton University in the fall.

Officials at Southwest Ohio’s largest suburban school system borrowed the idea for “Parade of Graduates” from other schools across the nation. It worked so well that district officials are already discussing expanding graduate parades into junior highs and kindergartens for next year’s graduating class.

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Senior classes were divided up and bussed to each of Lakota’s 10 elmentaries.

“It’s the first year for this and a big deal,” said Lakota spokeswoman Ginny Hizer. “Hopefully it will effect both the senior students and the kids of elementary age. We’re hoping that for the seniors it’s a great way to celebrate all that they have accomplished and to send them out on good note knowing that the community and schools have their back.”

“For the younger kids we hope they see role models … so they think that someday that’s going to be them,” Hizer said.

The 16,500-student Lakota district is the eighth largest in Ohio.

Thursday will see Lakota East’s 718 graduates receive their diplomas at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. Lakota West’s 622 graduates will have their commencement ceremony Friday at that the same location.

Also joining the cheering crowd at Hopewell Elementary on Monday were dozens of parents of the seniors.

Lakota school parent Barb Bryant got a double thrill from the Hopewell event. Her younger son was among those cheering in the hallways and her older son marched by as a soon-to-graduate Lakota East senior.

“It’s a nice event because the younger kids can look up to the seniors and see what they can accomplish,” Bryant said.

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