Jamie Rennie, President of the Eighth Grade class of Sparta Middle School gave this address at the completion ceremony on Thursday, June 19.
Members of the Board of Education, Mr. Tobin, Mr. Layman, Mr. Davis, Mrs. Rivera, all of the teachers, parents, and my fellow students. We are gathered here today with people we have spent not only the last three years …but some with whom we have been on our school journey since kindergarten. Hopefully when we look at the people sitting next to us we think of all of the wonderful memories we have made together.
Sparta Middle School has been a place for us to grow not only as individuals but as a group. In everything that we have done together, from our sixth grade trip to Fairview, to our eighth grade trip to Washington…we have acted with kindness and responsibility. As a class we have learned many lessons from one another and shared different experiences. This year we took part in a school wide initiative to honor Rachel Joy Scott, a victim of the Columbine School shooting, and challenged ourselves to practice acceptance and random acts of kindness. The eighth grade class won the school wide link competition, writing down acts of kindness we witnessed throughout the school year. We were rewarded by a Link Day celebration, a field day homeroom competition that was a fun way to end the year.
Also, we are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to enjoy many different clubs and activities, such as…Peer Leaders, Chess Club, Broadcasting Club, Community Service Club, Academic Team, Student Council, Science Olympiad, sports intramurals, and musical ensembles. These opportunities taught us the value of team work, acceptance, and kindness as well.
We accomplished much academically in our time at Sparta Middle School. Taking three years of the wonderful NJ-ASK…our first math final…and countless summatives and formatives assessing new standards has been challenging, however, we approached each challenge with determination and commitment.
When we entered sixth grade we were nervous at the transition into the Middle School, and now entering High School might be a scary thought as well. We will no longer be the leaders of the school, the “big eighth graders.” Whether you are going to Pope John, Sparta, or another school, the idea of a big, new confusing building, rigorous classes, possibly being in a class with older students, or being on a High School sports team can be overwhelming to think about. But whenever I feel this way about the future it is reassuring to know that I am part of such a special class and we are all experiencing the same challenges and excitement together.
I have been told by teachers and parents that our class has always had the reputation for being a kind and respectful group. I am honored to be a part of a class that has spent so much time focusing on compassion towards others. We do not just listen about how to treat others with respect, we actually apply it in our daily lives…and THAT is something of which we can all be proud.
John Wooden, an American basketball player and coach once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” When you are in the halls of Sparta Middle School, surrounded by students and teachers that you see every day it is easy to be respectful and well-behaved. The real challenge is when you leave the school and are with people you may not know, how do you treat them? Rachel Scott demonstrated how a small act of kindness can cause a chain reaction. We eighth-graders accepted this challenge and became inspired to make a positive change in our school community.
It is my hope that we will continue the message of Rachel’s Challenge as we enter High School, and spread kindness and acceptance of others throughout the next four years. And, hopefully when we are standing here for our High School graduation in four years, we can look back with a smile and feel proud of what we have accomplished, and the legacy we have left behind.
Thank you to our teachers and parents for supporting and encouraging us through these middle school years, and congratulations to the Sparta Middle School class of 2014!