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PHS caps off year with senior activities

PELHAM – As their graduation is quickly approaching on May 27, Pelham High School’s seniors are preparing by participating in some of the school’s annual traditions that cap off the year.

On April 21, students from the high school kicked off the road to graduation with two of the school’s traditional events, a senior luncheon and a graduation walk at the two elementary schools.

According to PHS Principal Kim Kiel, the students received their caps, gowns, cords and tassels that day and then loaded up the busses for a trip railroad park.

“This is a big photo opportunity for them,” Kiel said. “We were lucky enough to have The Florentine host us for their senior lunch, which is a fantastic facility. We had a great lunch for them in a beautiful venue.”

PHS Senior Class President Emma McKenney said that this was a very special way to kick off what was already an exciting time for the class.

“We started off at railroad park where we took pictures with our friends but it was so windy and cold a lot of us ended up going to the coffee shop across the street,” McKenney said. “We then headed to The Florentine for the luncheon and the venue was so beautiful and the food was amazing.”

According to Kiel, the students were also treated to a guest speech from Tim Alexander, director of character development for UAB, who she said engaged with the students and provided valuable life lessons to them as they prepare to move into the next phase of their lives.

Following the luncheon, the students loaded back up on the busses where they were split into two groups. Each of these groups went to either Pelham Oaks Elementary or Pelham Ridge Elementary to participate in a graduation walk.

Kiel said that the walks are a tradition with the school system, and serve as a way for the seniors to be recognized by their peers, but also for the younger students to see people that they look up to getting ready to graduate.

“I think that it really impacts our young panthers,” Kiel said. “They look up to the high school students when they participate in the youth camps, or walk out on the fields to do things with the band program. They get a chance to see that one day that can be them graduating. For the seniors, it is a full circle experience to see where they came from and where they are now.”

McKenney expressed that the senior walk was bittersweet for her and her fellow seniors.

“I got to go to Pelham Oaks which is where I attended when it was Valley Intermediate School, and just seeing all of the kids and some of the teachers I remembered was such a nostalgic experience,” McKenney explained. “Knowing that I used to be one of those kids not too long ago and now I’m graduating high school is a time I’ll never forget.”

The trip also had a more special meaning for McKenney as she got to see her little brother who is an elementary student.

“All the kids were lined up clapping and cheering for us with banners and pictures. I got to see my brother Sam and it was such a wonderful moment that I’m glad I got to share with him,” McKenney said.

Throughout a year where the COVID-19 pandemic loomed heavy in everyone’s mind, both Kiel and McKenney said that it was a relief to be able to make it to this point in the year and prepare for a somewhat normal end to the year.

“It means a lot to know that we were able to have a bit of normalcy regarding the end of our senior year,” McKenney said. “There was a lot of uncertainty beforehand and I’m glad that I get to celebrate the end of an era with my classmates. I know that many of us had a very tough past year trying to adjust to what we thought would be our new lives and just making it to this point is like a breath of fresh air.”

“We are very happy that we were able to continue some of our traditions this year like senior field day, prom, the luncheon and this graduation walk,” Kiel explained. “I am just so stoked to be able to finish off the year with them. All of this is so important to them, our teachers, faculty and staff.”

Ultimately, most of the students are ready to graduate and move on to the next phase of their lives with college, jobs and other things.

“I think the majority of us are ready to finish school and be done with it. ‘Senioritis’ hit us pretty hard when we were in quarantine and for me personally, I think I’m ready to move onto the next chapter of my life,” McKenney said. “I know it will be difficult and it doesn’t get any easier, but I’ve had great guidance from my parents, Tony and Amanda McKenney, as well as my teachers and coaches along the way. Go Ham Forever!”

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