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The ‘Road To Opportunities’ For NMS Eighth Graders

Published: June 16, 2017

Newtown Middle School (NMS) eighth grade students made the official transition from middle school to high school during two moving up ceremonies in Newtown High School’s (NHS) gymnasium during the afternoon and evening of Wednesday, June 14.

Students in Clusters 8 Green and 8 Red were honored at the 4:30 pm ceremony, and students in Clusters 8 Blue and 8 Purple were honored at 7:15 p.m. A total of 375 students successfully completed the eighth grade this year.

This year was the first time that the ceremony was held at NHS since 2003, according to The Newtown Bee’s archives. It has been held at Western Connecticut State University’s O’Neill Center in Danbury since 2004. The decision to hold the ceremony at NHS this year was due to budgetary reasons, as the NHS ceremony cost one-fifth of what the alternative would have cost, according to the district’s Director of Business Ron Bienkowski.

Additionally, NMS Principal Tom Einhorn said in an interview, the parent community had expressed interest in bringing the ceremony back to Newtown.

Family members sat on bleachers on either side of the gym, while the eighth graders and their teachers sat in folding chairs lined up in rows on the floor.

Student cluster representatives, NMS’s principal and assistant principal, and Board of Education members sat on a stage under a banner that read “Newtown Middle School” and featured the logos of NMS and NHS to signify the transition.

“You have in front of you a delightful, pleasant, and polite group of students, and as their parents, you should be very proud,” NMS teacher Andrew San Angelo, said.

After the students had filed into their seats to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” eighth grade student Melissa Travali, sang the national anthem.

A group of 12 students, most of whom are in the school’s jazz band, according to band teacher Mark Mahoney, played the jazz-fusion song “Birdland.”

“What an incredible start to our program,” Mr Einhorn, said, thanking the band. He then welcomed the families, Assistant Principal James Ross, and Board of Education members Keith Alexander and Rebekah Harriman-Stites.

Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, then took the podium and dispensed ten pieces of advice to the students.

In one, Dr Erardi likened the 13 years many students will spend in the Newtown school district with the 13 miles in a half marathon. “In most cases, runners at the nine-mile mark look pretty good,” he said. “Not always at the finish line. And my suggestion to those of you who finish strong: understand grit, understand determination, and understand perseverance.”

Student Council President Nate Wheeler then took the stage, supported by applause and cheers from the crowd. He talked about the importance of doing community service in order to make the community a nice place to live.

“We serve and care for the community, and in turn, the community becomes a wonderful and comfortable place for everyone to live,” he said.

Mr Ross next read the names of students who had won Cluster awards in the areas of language arts, mathematics, algebra, science, social studies, citizenship, personal growth and academic progress, creativity, and the highest cluster average, as well as world language award recipients. Students stood as their names were called.

School counselors Tina Broccolo and Leanne Fuccillo then read the names of the 93 recipients of the President’s Awards for Educational Excellence, which is awarded to students who have earned a cumulative grade average of 95 on a 100-point scale for seventh grade and the first three quarters of eighth grade.

Mr Einhorn announced the winners of awards such as the NMS Citizenship Award, the Superintendent’s Award, and the Ellen Rogers Personal Achievement Award, as well as the names of the students who had achieved the five highest GPAs.

The floor was then turned over to student representatives from each of the four clusters.

Catarina Darocha from the 8 Blue Cluster talked about the lessons she had learned at NMS.

“I made so many new friends this year, and I learned to be more selective with my choice of friends,” she said.

Jacob Shuman from the 8 Purple Cluster based his talk off of the famous Mahatma Gandhi quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

He cited a blood drive, a sock drive for the homeless, and a school supplies drive as examples of community service the eighth graders had done.

Finally, cluster teachers announced the names of their students as they walked across the stage and shook hands with the NMS administration and Board of Education members on the stage.

In the middle of announcing the students in the 8 Purple Cluster with last names that started with the letter “L,” the microphone teacher Mr San Angelo was using stopped working.

“Use your teacher voice,” Mr Einhorn said to Mr San Angelo. He did exactly that, and shouted out the names of the eighth graders for the crowd to hear. Mr San Angelo was given a functional microphone again by the time he reached names starting with “T.”

Mr. Einhorn concluded the ceremony by giving some advice of his own: “Be kind to others and remember that the road before you is filled with opportunities. Make the most of them.”

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