They will no longer be the “top of the heap, the top banana,” as South Pasadena Middle School Principal Dave Kubela pointed out during his farewell message – “Be the Change”– as part of Wednesday’s promotion ceremony for 8th graders moving on to high school.
While they were riding high in middle school, Kubela reminded the class behind him soon they will be back at the bottom as freshmen, working to be on top again as seniors when they graduate in 2023.
“There will be new experiences as well as new challenges,” he told the large gathering. “In high school, you will be hyper focused on credits, GPA, SAT scores while preparing yourself for college and career. You may have already heard that now ‘school is for real.’ And it’s true – the next four years are some of the most important as you build a successful life. But with increased pressure, don’t lose sight of growing into the whole person you want to be, one that really does have influence by the way you lead your life.
“You may have heard the Mahatma Gandhi and a famous quote that has been attributed to him, ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world.’ I first heard that quote in high school and have used it to inspire myself.”
Kubela told the students that Gandhi led by example. “His persistence and thoughtfulness make it possible for him to accomplish some remarkable things and his story provides us all with a vision for solving problems and making change in our lives,” explained the principal. “He was not interested in personal reward or even acknowledgement. To me the quote does not necessarily mean creating a monumental change like Gandi, but it could. To me, ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world,’ is also a life perspective or worldview. It means living your life following your belief system, treating people the way you want to be treated. It also means standing by those beliefs and modeling them – ‘walking the talk.’ And yes, you could discover a solution to a larger world problem. You could help end or reduce poverty, gun violence, social injustice and many other world tribulations.”
Kubela noted it’s easy to become obsessed with competition and the drive for the best colleges and careers. “But I’m confident you won’t,” he said. “You won’t because of how you have grown at SPMS and how you have been able to experience so many things. As you work to be a complete and successful person, I hope you will always keep Gandi’s words at heart and learn to believe that you have the power to be the change you want to see in the world, no matter how small.”
He concluded, adding: “Congratulations on your accomplishments at SPMS and best of luck in high school.”
Following Kubela’s remarks, ASB officers, performing the role as emcees, including Ava Fineza, Yousef Khan, Sarah Chung, and Ellie Yamada, welcomed the crowd, full of proud parents, grandparents, and community members.
Lia Borja lifted the audience with a rousing rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” receiving a loud applause.
Brynn Buckley, an 8th grade student, delivered a speech “Twelve-Twelfths,” referring to promotion day at SPMS. “We stand here 12/12th of the way through middle school. “What once seemed so far away is now here. Everyday we turned the clock and waited for the minutes, hours, days to go by. It all led up to this. How does it feel? I for one would like to know why I woke up so many days longing to get back in bed, walking into each of my classes, waiting for the bell to ring, waiting for Friday to hurry up and come faster, wanted it to be summer. There were days where I walked into school wanting to leave, so why right now is it so hard to leave?
Buckley elaborated that, “Is it is because of all the friends we have made here? Is it because of the supportive and safe environment at school? Or maybe it’s because of the teachers who taught us so many important like skills. There were no specific days that made middle school so memorable but instead there were moments in between that made it unforgettable. I want to stay for just one more day. I would take one more day of middle school. Heck, I would take one more day even if it meant taking another test. Just want one more day, six hours. I wan one more day of lunch under the sun, one more chance to win the raffle and get a lollipop in class, one more class period where I get out of breath laughing. I just want more time.
She urged her fellow students to never forget the “everlasting moments and memories you made here at South Pasadena Middle School. Learn from the past, cherish the present and embrace the future.”
As she does annually, Janet Anderson, the principal at South Pasadena High School welcomed the 8th grade class to the school she oversees down the road.
“It’s always such a pleasure to be here at the SPMS promotion and it’s also inspirational,” remarked Anderson to the crowd, initially addressing the parents. “I know you’re probably thinking it seems like kindergarten was just three weeks ago, and here they are ready to head into high school. For all the support you’ve given them and encouragement and for being there for them, thank you. Please give yourself a round of applause.”
Anderson then turned and faced the students behind her, noting that on the way into the ceremony she read a sign reading: “Now the Adventure Begins.”
And certainly it does, as she pointed out, noting, “You’ve had wonderful adventures here at the middle school, and at the high school, you can try new things. If you didn’t like the way you did middle school, you can do it better, you get a do-over once you get to the high school. You can make different choices, choose different classes, join different clubs and have different experiences. So, I really want you to think about all the possibilities.”
Reflecting on Buckley’s “Twelve-Twelfths” speech, Anderson urged the students departing the walls of the middle school to “live those “Twelve-Twelfth” very fully, see what you can do to make life more fun for you that helps you discover more about yourselves. Here at the middle school you’ve met a lot of teachers and administrators, coaches who care very much for you and you will find the same thing when you get to the high school. It’s just that you don’t know us yet. You’ll find that we’re very invested in you as people and in helping create the best futures as possible.”
She read another sign on the middle school campus reading: “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”
“As you turn from Tiger Cubs to Tigers, Oh, the first one will be SPHS. We can’t wait to have you next year.”
Anderson’s words were marked by a loud ovation before SPMS teacher Lindsay Bruce asked the 8th grade award winners to stand up, recognizing their many achievements.
After her turn at the microphone, South Pasadena Middle School’s jazz ensemble performed “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” before 8th grader Jayden Tran talked about “Without Change” in his speech, which focused on growth.
“Over the course of middle school, we have matured upon the foundations set for us by our family, mentors, and teachers,” he said. “We have grown to, and learned, basic skills, such as the importance of communication, social skills, how to manage our time, and skills that mean so much more, like dedication, loyalty, activism, how to change and focus. It is with these skills that we can move onto growing, developing what we want to focus.”
Finishing his message, Tran added: “Growth is odd. We change, twist, contort into a new and different version of ourselves. But when do we grow? We does this concept of turning into something else, of changing, truly occur? Personally, I believe growth is almost always arising. You can almost never meet your full potential, you can always strive farther, move faster, go quicker. As we continue to move on, as we mature and go through high school, as we get jobs, we will all experience growth in one way or another. With growth, we change. Let us be the change in this world. There’s a message I believe upholds the true beliefs of my class and what we strive for. Something that justifies what we plan on doing – changing the world. A storm of change is coming, one that cannot be prevented or stopped.”
Next on the program was what the class of 2019 patiently waited for – the conferring of diplomas by ASB officers. One after another, the students, 387 strong, approached school administrators to accept the important certificates indicating their achievement and that high school awaits.
And when it was over, the 8th graders who are now off to high school in the 9th grade existed the staging area to Handel’s “Hail the Conquering Hero.”