The Glen Cove School District hosted an event on June 15 that officials said they hoped would become a tradition. In the Senior Walk, graduating seniors, decked out in caps and gowns, paraded through the halls of the district’s elementary schools, much to the delight of the younger students, who stood against the walls and cheered them on.
At Landing Elementary, students’ hands flew up, seeking high-fives as members of the class of 2018 marched by. The seniors’ robes billowed as they stretched out their hands to oblige the youngsters.
For the seniors, “It’s just a great culminating event,” said Landing Elementary School Principal Benjamin Roberts. For his students, he added, “They get to see the journey they’re about to take, and then on to the next levels.”
Roberts and district Superintendent Dr. Maria Rianna both said that the event was particularly special for elementary students with siblings who were graduating. One Landing student, who the district requested not be identified, said of his older brother, one of the seniors who participated, “It’s crazy how he’s already graduating.” He spoke softly and sounded sad when he said he would miss his brother, who would soon depart for college.
The event is likely to hold a special place in the memories of at least two of the seniors. As he passed the elementary school students, they cheered for Jack Kaffl, whom many recognized as a counselor in the city’s summer camp program. Kaffl brought up the rear of the procession, but broke ranks to retrieve something from the lobby of the school after the other graduates had lined up outside.
When he returned, he held a poster-board sign that read, “You’re the Rebecca to my Jack” — an allusion to the TV show “This is Us” — “Let this be us. Prom?” The Landing students erupted in a deafening roar.
As Kaffl waited in the lobby, the walk’s student organizers orchestrated a second walkthrough, this time with Rebecca Tan at the back. When his classmates walked past a beaming Kaffl, they offered handshakes and high-fives of support.
Tan gasped when she saw him, and after collecting herself, nodded affirmatively at her prom date. Then she rushed Kaffl and they shared a kiss and an embrace. Several young students reacted with variations of “Eww,” but when Tan buried her face in Kaffl’s chest, the crowd applauded. Some faculty members, including Rianna, wiped away tears.
Besides the “prom-posal,” as Rianna dubbed it, the Senior Walk, she said, was a way for older students to help motivate the youngsters. “They wanted to show the kids it’s important to be graduating,” she said. “It’s an important and happy event to be entering the next phase of their lives.”
At this point in their development, elementary-school students are “beginning to think about some of their career options,” Roberts said. “They’re still in this cute, juvenile place of ‘I want to be so-and-so,’ which is great,” he added, noting that what was most important was that the event allowed the children to get a sense of how their hard work can pay off. “The big thing we want for our students is that they continue to work hard so that all those opportunities and those doors open up at each level as they progress.”
For many of the older students, the event also had elements of nostalgia and gratitude. Jessie Kaffl, Jack’s mother, who works as a teacher’s aide at Landing, said, “All the kids, when they come back, they say that everything looks way smaller.” She added that the event was also about reconnecting with old teachers. “It’s a big part of them. I think they’re excited to come back and see the people who helped shape them.”