SPARTA, NJ – Under the sunny blue sky on Thursday evening Sparta Middle School held their eighth grade completion ceremony.  The event took place on Cassels Field at Sparta High School.  The bleachers were filled with family and friends to watch as the students close one chapter and look ahead to the next.

The ceremony began with comments from student Matt Bouma-Hannam.  He spoke about the meaning of success.  “Everyone has a different brain, so every student is different,” Bouma-Hannam said. “I feel the need to point out strong academics don’t necessarily mean success…Do not let a letter define your life.”

Vice Principal Brad Davis announced several awards.

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Ronetco Supermarktes, owners of ShopRite supermarkets in our area each year give two cash awards to students at Sparta Middle School.  The two awards are for Ambition and Cooperation as well as Personality and Common Sense.

The student selected for exhibiting ambition and cooperation was Kennedy Masternak.

The students selected for exhibiting personality and common sense was Nicholas Ventresca.

The Student Council Purchase Prize was awarded to Rachel Rodriguez for a silhouette painting she created depicting a child on a swing on a background of a sunset.  Davis said Rodriguez spend extra time in the art room, “for the person benefit of creating fantastic artwork.”

Each year the Daughters of the American Revolution recognized two students.  Exhibiting characteristics of citizenship, patriotism, honesty, loyalty and bringing honor in some way to the school or the community Kayleigh Simpson was awarded the Good Citizenship Award.

Christopher Byrnes earned the Outstanding Work in American History prize. Both students received a certificate and a medal.

The Herb Libourel Award was named for a former Sparta Junior High School principal known for having instilled the importance of service in the students.  Georgia Paraskos was selected for this award because she demonstrates leadership and citizenship along with respect for all people and exhibits honesty, trustfulness and is not selfish, according to Davis. 

Paraskos name will be added to a plaque in the main office of the middle school. She received a pin.

Also named for a former middle school principal, the William Calvani Award was given to Matthew Bouma-Hannam for his involvement in community service, as well as going above and beyond in helping others both in and out of school, exhibiting superior effort in all areas and spending time in the service of others, Davis said.

Bouma-Hannam received a plaque and will also have his name inscribed on a plaque in the make office.

Principal Michael Gregory was next to the podium.  He told the student they were the first class he actually enjoyed as seventh grade students.  He spoke about the importance of sharing kind words, saying decades later people remember specific details about harsh words spoken to them.  He aske the students to text someone who has done the opposite, told them something kind.

Gregory told the parents he was impressed with the students because on a Friday he would randomly ask students about their plans for the weekend. They would share their plans but always ask Gregory what his plans were. 

The same statement was made about conversations on Mondays; he would ask what they did and they would always ask him about how his weekend was spent.

“Ten years from now ask the person you sent the text to,” Gregory said.  “You will see their eyes light up and a smile as they remember.”

He wrapped up his comments telling all “unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly and underrated agent of change.  Be kind and good luck.”

Each student was called to the stage to receive their certificate of completion.