Seniors take the last stride
With their gowns draped and tassels swooshing, the graduating class proudly paraded along campus sidewalks lined with students, faculty and parents. The Senior Walk has evolved into a unique tradition and has come to represent a beginning and an end – the culmination of the students’ high school career and the start of a new chapter.
The Senior Walk began with the graduating class of 2006 to provide younger students with an opportunity to see the graduating seniors.
College counseling administrative assistant Mrs. Carol Diamond said, “Our lunch program director at the time was Ann DeBellvue, whose son Brian was a senior, and it was Ann who came up with the idea of the walk. She said the other students never get a chance to see the seniors in graduation attire.”
Since then, English teacher Mrs. Eileen Price said the senior walk has developed into a “fabulously poignant” experience.
“I particularly like seeing the parents as they see their children in their caps and gowns for the first time,” she said.
“Since I teach ninth grade, the Senior Walk is four years of grooming and growth. The Senior Walk allows me to reflect on the best memories of my soon-to-be former students.”
Price said this event represents the successful culmination of high school and “the first step into a whole new adventure: college.”
“The underclassmen view it as something to look forward to, and they admire the seniors. The Senior Walk, to me, is the beginning of graduation activities for the senior class,” Price said.
The walk begins the countdown to the big event in the Bradenton Civic Auditorium — graduation.
“It is also with great pride that I see the senior class in the graduation regalia getting ready for summer, college and careers. I feel both pleased and proud to have contributed to this event, and I think each member of the senior class deserves the adulation and respect that is given by the entire Saint Stephen’s community,” Price said.
The Senior Walk serves as a reality check to the graduating class and is one of the first of many senior events.
“It’s really nice to see our students dressed professionally to try out their caps and gowns for the first time. They are young men and women, looking forward to the next passage in life,” science teacher Mrs. Chi Klein said.
“It gives the community a chance to start celebrating the seniors in a tangible way and for younger students to see the culminating goal of their efforts.”
For the seniors, the walk is a time to reflect back on the experiences in Lower, Intermediate, Middle and Upper school. Senior Shannon Morrish said it allows everyone to see how each individual has grown throughout the years.
“Taking part in the Senior Walk allows us to reflect on the memories made throughout life at Saint Stephen’s, but also to see that there is so much more to come,” she said.
The walk serves as the closing of one era but the beginning of another, senior Tyler Cohenour said.
“It hasn’t been too emotional for me up until last year’s senior class, since I had a lot of friends in that class, and I started to realize that would be me next year,” he said.
“It’s going to be hard for sure because I’ve been here my whole life, and it’s going to be rough saying goodbye to all of my friends here.”
The Forever Falcons said the Senior Walk brings their many years at Saint Stephen’s full circle.
“The Senior Walk [has] always seemed so far away. The seniors always looked so grown up and excited, and it has definitely been one of my favorite days of school,” senior Michelle Vogler said.
The walk is not only a special moment for students and parents, but also for teachers who have served as mentors throughout the four years of high school.
Klein said her best memory was seeing her first set of senior advisees walking through campus.
“As senior advisors, we got to help them with their caps and gowns for the walk. After having seen them grow from little freshmen into young men and women heading off to college, it was quite a touching moment to set off the countdown to graduation,” she said.
The Senior Walk provides a connection between the graduating seniors and younger students that embodies the forthcoming years for both, Diamond said. It is these memories that last a lifetime.
“My first memory of the walk in 2006 was seeing a kindergarten student looking up to a very tall senior boy as he walked by him; the little boy had a huge smile on his face,” she said.
Fledgling Grace Baxendale said she was happy to see her Falcon Friend, senior Elizabeth Djinis, walk by.
“I’m proud of her,” she said.