The streets and sidewalks around J.P. McCaskey High School were sprinkled with students in red and black gowns Tuesday afternoon.
As members of the Class of 2016 walked out of the high school, their excitement was evident. Some walked poignantly, while others laughed.
“Future, baby. Future,” one student shouted.
The “Graduation Walk” began at the high school and made its way to Wickersham Elementary School before heading to Lincoln Middle School. It is likely going to be a new tradition, according to School District of Lancaster spokeswoman Kelly Burkholder.
The idea for the walk came from viral images of a school in East Texas that shows about 150 graduates walking through their district’s elementary school.
The intention of Tuesday’s walk in Lancaster was to inspire younger students and show them what their future could be like if they continue their education, McCaskey principal Bill Jimenez said.
“They see students they may know, friends, family … they see the end result,” Jimenez said. “(The seniors are) really excited. It’s a big beehive of energy.”
People in cars stopped to talk with the seniors, and other motorists excitedly honked or responded positively.
“It was an amazing time,” Analicia Velazquez, an 11-year-old fifth-grader at Wickersham Elementary, said. “It inspired me to continue to be a student.” She then spoke of her dream to become a video game designer.
Wickersham Elementary principal Ashley Mercado said that it was “an amazing opportunity” to show off the school district’s culture of preparing kids for careers and college, adding the seniors are an inspiration to the community and younger students.
Senior Nicholas Perez said he is going to Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology to study Electrical Technology.
“It’s so surreal right now,” Perez said. He said walking through Wickersham made him happy because it’s where he attended kindergarten.
Senior Alexis Plaza said she is joining the Air Force and is scheduled to leave shortly after graduation to start training in Texas. She said she want to study cyber security.
“I like computers,” Plaza said. “It’s my thing.”
While Plaza said she is extremely nervous to graduate, she said that she’s also really happy.
“I made it through hard work and good grades … I feel powerful,” she said.
She looks back fondly on her experience at McCaskey, and was all smiles when talking about the pride she feels for her high school. Positivity is the aspect she said she will miss the most.
“Our school is one big family,” she said.
Walking through the Wickersham and Lincoln, she encouraged the students to continue with their education.
“Don’t give up on your dreams,” Plaza said. “Have motivation, keep going forward.”
Seniors at Lampeter-Strasburg High School held their own walk on Tuesday.
Dubbing it a “Senior Walk Through,” seniors donned their caps and gowns and walked through Martin Meylin Middle, Hans Herr Elementary and Lampeter Elementary schools.
Nearly every senior participated, Lampeter-Strasburg School District spokeswoman Anne Harnish said.
She said Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” played over the loudspeaker as the seniors walked through Martin Meylin Middle School.
The seniors were all smiles as they gave the younger kids high fives and words of encouragement.Members of Lampeter-Strasburg High School’s Class of 2016 visit students at Martin Meylin Middle School.
“It really brought it home that my class is actually graduating,” she said.
Fellow senior Brianna Garber also said she didn’t know what the event would hold. She was, however, excited that she could see her past elementary and middle school teachers, as well as her eighth-grade sister.
The next walk the seniors from both high schools take will be the real deal as they stroll across different stages to accept their diplomas.
McCaskey will hold its graduation at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lancaster County Convention Center, 25 S. Queen St. Lampeter-Strasburg’s graduation will take place at 7 p.m. Friday at Pioneer Field, 1600 Book Road.