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Pomp and preschool: Graduations for youngsters more common
Ceremonies celebrate ever-younger graduates
7:37 PM, Jun 19, 2012
Written by JUSTIN MURPHY, staff writer
The “moving-up” celebration is part of a growing trend: graduation-style festivities for younger and younger students. Preschoolers and kindergartners don miniature caps and gowns and cross the stage to receive their proof of passage.
At School 33, 5-year-old Najeer Burgess had about 10 family members in the audience to hear his name called out.
“It’s my first child graduating, so it’s a big deal,” said his mother, Shantanese Burgess. “He learned to write his name, he learned his left from his right, he learned how to interact with his peers.”
Najeer was stylish in a tan suit and light blue tie. Many of the students wore their best, while others settled for everyday school clothes.
They entered the gym in a toddling procession, quickly interrupted by swarming family members with cameras. Decorum was restored and the children sang along to a bilingual musical program including “Hello and How Are You,” “The Florence Brown Song” and “ABC Rock.”
They then received their certificates and shared with the audience their career plans. Firefighters carried the day, far outpolling others receiving votes: teacher, mail carrier, Burger King owner and more.
Ceremonies elsewhere in the region differed in specifics but carried the same message.
In Webster, next year’s sixth-graders got a sendoff from State Road Elementary School, complete with poems, singing and a breakfast with family.
Graduation-style festivities in elementary and middle school have their detractors. Andrea McKenna, an education specialist with the Child Care Council, said kindergarteners in particular are too young to appreciate the point.
McKenna also cautioned against turning children into “praise junkies,” citing research that over-celebrated children can lose a proper sense of motivation.
Big academic accomplishments can also mean big business. Oak Hall Cap and Gown, a Virginia company, provides academic regalia to 10,000 kindergartens and nursery schools across the country — in addition to high schools, colleges and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Vice President Donna Hodges said demand for children’s attire has been steady over the years but varies regionally....“Who doesn’t want and deserve their 15 minutes of fame? They’re very proud of the achievement that putting on the cap and gown brings.”
“These parents have made a commitment to getting there kids here every day and we want to celebrate that,” she said. “At this point in life, the parents are really involved and enthusiastic and we want to encourage that.”
James Garofalo, interim dean at the State University College at Geneseo School of Education, agreed that early positive reinforcement likely leads to future success.
“It’s a good antidote to some of the negative stuff that’s been going around,” he said.
“When the kids know their parents and grandparents are proud of them, it makes them think they’ve achieved something.”