Middle school students on the second floor balcony around 10 years ago.
Middle school students on the second floor balcony around 10 years ago.

Middle School Grads Bid Farewell, Marking End of an Era

May 23, 2022

A bittersweet yet exciting farewell will be said when the last representatives of the Eastside Middle School graduate on May 27.

Sixteen seniors have spent the past seven years on campus, first becoming Panthers in 2015, back when NASA discovered water on Mars, Barack Obama was president, and the school had uniforms.

“It’s the end of an era,” said senior Chris Guerrero. “I really enjoyed being part of the middle school group, but it’s also time to move on.”

Chris said his middle school experience gave him a head start that he appreciates now. And after studying with classmates for seven years, Chris feels he can go back to the peers he grew up with, knowing they will always share that bond and support system.

After years of running both a middle school and high school, the middle school was phased out starting in 2015 in order to prioritize building the alumni and career coaching programs instead.  Although the middle school classes had been small, they had a big impact and the school decided that it would be more successful by keeping its focus on a narrower span of years rather than trying to help students ranging from age 11 to 25.

History teacher and Cross Country coach Jasmine Kelly-Pierce taught Social Studies and English in the middle school and remembers it fondly.

“I am proud,” Jasmine said. “There is some sadness to it too because when I know people for four years, I can get close to them, but when I’ve known them for seven, it’s like, man, they’re family.”

Creative Writing teacher Tina Ehsanipour also taught in the middle school and enjoys seeing some of the students from that reading program in her Creative Writing class and Advisory today. She feels the main takeaway has been watching the students develop and find their voices. Even as they have grown and changed, she still feels they have stayed true to themselves.

“It’s cool to see they’re still them,” Tina said. “Their core is still the same but they seem like bigger versions of their middle-school selves.”

Senior Luisa Soto is one example of a student who has grown a lot as a writer finding her voice, Tina said. Luisa said she became closer to Tina in high school, but that having seven years together allowed them to create a deeper connection and that she could even see Tina’s growth as a teacher. Luisa will attend college in Kentucky, far from others in the middle school crew, but she knows their bond is unique and they will manage to check up on each other now and then.

“We could be cats and dogs,” she said. “We’re mean, but we also have that bond where we can confide in each other.”

Students and staff who have been at Eastside for seven years remember the campus with middle schoolers racing across the quad and have felt those memories fade year by year.

“It’s still hard to accept this is a new stage,” Tina said, “and that chapter of Eastside history is now in the past.”

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