MOUNT CARMEL — Whether they realized it or not, K-5 students in the eastern half of Hawkins County got a glimpse into their own future Tuesday morning as Volunteer High School’s Class of 2019 participated in the fourth annual Graduate Parade.
Since 2016, seniors from both of Hawkins County’s main high schools have had an opportunity shortly before graduation to put on their caps and gowns a little early and parade through the hallways of the elementary schools that feed their particular school.
On Tuesday morning, it was Volunteer’s turn as seniors toured Mount Carmel, Carters Valley, Church Hill, McPheeters Bend and Surgoinsville elementary schools.
Along the way, seniors ran a gauntlet of cheering K-5 students and former teachers who offered applause, high-fives, hugs, and notes congratulating them on this accomplishment.
First stop, Mount Carmel Elementary
Around 8:35 a.m., members of Volunteer’s Class of 2019 disembarked four school buses at Mount Carmel Elementary and toured the hallways, which were lined on both sides with youngsters from Pre-K through 5th grade.
Bethany Frazier and Garrett Heron, who are both former MCES students graduating from Volunteer this month, described Tuesday’s return to their alma mater as “surreal.”
“It’s crazy to think we went on this whole 13-year journey and to know that all of those kids are gonna go on that same journey, and they're going to be walking through these halls in like 2030-something,” Heron said. “That is insane.”
A tradition launched with the Class of 2016
Seniors were given the option of participating, and that first year about two busloads of them took part.
High School Supervisor Wes Smith noted, however, that the Graduate Parade has since become a full-fledged Hawkins County tradition, with four busloads of Volunteer grads participating Tuesday.
“It started really small that first year just to see how it would go, and since then it gets bigger and bigger and bigger every year,” Smith said. “The kids love it. The high school kids love it. They get to see their former teachers. Some of them get to see their parents, bothers, sisters, cousins, nephews. It’s really one of my favorite duties and one of my favorite days all year long.”
“Hopefully it inspires them”
Aside from being fun, the annual Graduate Parade is also a learning experience, especially for the younger students.
“We have high school kids come to elementary schools for a lot of different reasons,” Smith said. “I think our hope is that they see what they’re here to do. They look up to older kids anyway. They’re kind of heroes to them anyway. They see them in their cap and gown. They see them smiling and happy.
“Hopefully it inspires them to really work hard in school and to finish.”
On May 17, Cherokee High School seniors will visit Mooresburg, St. Clair, and Bulls Gap if they choose Group A; or Keplar, Joseph Rogers Primary, Hawkins Elementary and Rogersville City School if they choose Group B.