The students in Bladen County have missed so much at the end of this school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its heavy restrictions, but one county school made sure its 8th Grade students had a memorable send-off celebration Tuesday evening.
The administration and staff of Tar Heel Middle School organized a very festive and memorable drive-through parade for their 8th Graders who will leave the school and attend high school in the fall.
Tar Heel Principal Teresa Coleman declared the event a “huge success” and praised all who made it happen for the students.
“Everyone involved enjoyed the fellowship and the opportunity to reconnect in person — even six feet apart,” Ms. Coleman said. “Our staff had the opportunity to see their co-workers and their students who have been missing from our building since March 13.”
The school’s plan was quite simple — they staged a drive-through parade of sorts. The spotlight was on the students who rode through the school’s long back drive to the athletic fields. Teachers, school staff, administration, and even a couple of special guests from the District Office lined the drive in their cars to wave, call out words of congratulations and good luck, and celebrate the 8th Graders. Along the “parade” route, the school had individual signs professionally made for each 8th Grader with his/her name and accomplishments through the year (the students each will receive their individual and specially-made sign). The teachers remained at their individual cars and also waved signs they had made to show the students how proud they were of them and how much they would miss them next year. At all times during the event, CDC guidelines and social distancing were observed.
Ms. Coleman said it was a truly wonderful event and made a lasting, positive memory of Tar Heel Middle for her students.
“When planning this event, my first concern was staff participation,” Ms. Coleman said. “My teaching staff live in Wilmington, Fayetteville, Lumberton, and the rest in Bladen County. I could not require their attendance.” (The event was held at 6 p.m. in order to give parents who work an opportunity to bring their children.)
Ms. Coleman said in the planning of the event she wondered if her staff would drive all the way to Tar Heel for just an evening parade. All of Tar Heel’s staff came, except one teacher who had car trouble that day.
“The teachers had their cars decorated with signs and balloons,” Ms. Coleman said. “And they waved to each and every student to make them feel special.” The students were smiling and happy, and a few even cried happy tears as they proceeded through the parade.
The second concern the principal had in planning this event was her students. “Would they remember it? Would the parents bring them?” Ms. Coleman said she wondered. When it was said and done, over 50 percent of the 8th Graders came to participate, she added.
“We had concerns that we had to consider as possible barriers to this great event,” Ms. Coleman added, “but we knew our 8th Graders were special and deserved a great memory of our school as they closed out their middle school years.”
And that was enough to forge ahead with the planning.
Ms. Coleman said it was special to also have Dr. Robert Taylor (BCS Superintendent), Dr. Antonia Beatty (Assistant Superintendent), and Ms. Tulisha Pridgen (Behavior Support Specialist/PBIS Coordinator) from the Central Office come and support her students, too.
“Thanks go out to each parent who took the time to bring the children out for the event,” Ms. Coleman stated. “Our parents are always supportive of our school and our students, and this was definitely shown with the turnout we had. It was a great community effort at work!”
The principal also wanted to send a huge “Thanks” to her teachers. “They stepped up again and gave their time to help students know how much we care about them,” Ms. Coleman said of her Panther staff. “I have such a dedicated group of teachers, and I appreciate each of them for what they do for our students and our school,” she added.
“I’m so blessed with a great school that is full of wonderful students, dedicated teachers, and a supportive community,” Ms. Coleman concluded. “Our school district may be large with students who come to us from miles apart, but we are extremely proud of the family atmosphere we create when we are together — and even when we are quarantined!”