In a brief passage that had all the tone and emotional resonance of a graduation tradition in the making, a small group of Oyster Bay High School seniors, dressed in graduation caps and gowns, passed through the hallways of Teddy Roosevelt Elementary School on the morning of June 20. As the high school seniors high-fived the first- and second-graders, connections were made.
The visit was conceived as a way for the graduating seniors to put in perspective the rewards of working hard in school and being kind to one another. It was a march of a couple of hundred feet through an elementary school hallway or two, accompanied by the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance” piped cheerfully through the school’s P.A. system.
Although the ceremony was only about 22 minutes long, its impact was powerful, offering a counterpoint to what may often seem a complicated world beyond school the walls — a world full of highs and lows, of uncertainties and challenges, of mysteries and opportunities and as-yet unrealized dreams.
“Congratulations to the class of 2018!” intoned Roosevelt Principal Tami McElwee as the high schoolers marched, the elementary-school students cheered and the school administrators, teachers and supervisors beamed happily at their shared moment.
“This was unbelievable,” said Oyster Bay-East Norwich senior Tommy Sesklowski, tilting back his cap afterward. “Unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I expected to feel gratitude to the teachers who helped me along the way towards my success. But what I didn’t expect was the sense of leadership, of giving back. It was a little like being a celebrity to these kids.”
The senior walk-through was organized by Lindsey Tiberia, OBEN High’s Student Council president, and organized by the seniors. “My mom saw something like this on Facebook and she showed it to me,” Tiberia said. “I thought it was cool, so I suggested it to the school just a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t been back here in a number of years, so I knew it would be fun to see some of my old teachers in the hall.”
The enthusiasm in the eyes and smiles of the elementary-school students was ample evidence that they thought it was a pretty cool idea too.
“They were so cute!” said McElwee. “And I think this will help them to look to the future.”
“You could see it in their faces,” said Tiberia. “They were excited and we were, too. I felt like we saw ourselves in their faces.”
And with that, a yellow school bus rolled into the drive to carry the seniors away.
“We look for ways to bridge our buildings, including the high school and elementary school, and also Vernon Middle,” said OBEN Superintendent of Schools Dr. Laura Seinfeld as the seniors gathered next to the bus for a group photo. “We may do something like this again in September.”