Sixth graders celebrate end, new beginning

Published 4:32 pm Thursday, June 10, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- While Brandywine Elementary's sixth grade graduation celebrated the students' completion of elementary school, it also marked the beginning of a big transition to a new school, Brandywine Middle/Senior High School.
Brandywine Elementary held the annual graduation ceremony for its 115 sixth graders in the gymnasium on Wednesday morning, the last day of school for Brandywine students.
Sixth grade teacher Carol Christner is also happy to see the graduating sixth graders succeed, but is sad to think that she may not see some of the kids ever again.
Speiss said sixth grade graduation is a big day because they go from being the class that is looked up to by other students to being the youngest class in the school next year.
Christner said the teachers try to do everything they can to prepare the sixth graders for this transition before they leave elementary school.
For Wednesday's celebration, Brandywine Elementary brought in Craig Tornquist, a professional comedian who specializes in performing at school functions, corporate groups and churches, as the ceremony's guest speaker for the eighth consecutive year.
By providing impressions, song parodies, student volunteers and fun interactive games, Tornquist added some spice to a usually standard event.
He brought a few of the graduates to the forefront for a contest to see which student could eat a handful of crackers and then whistle first.
This was followed by the crowning of the school's "Big Hair Queen," which was determined after Tornquist selected five volunteers, gave them each a bottle of hair spray and then gave them five minutes to see who would come back with the "biggest" hair.
Tornquist said he tries to put on a show that is fun, but also gives the students a few life lessons.
He incorporates messages of perseverance, risk taking and the importance of education into his comical and entertaining routine.
As an entertainer that deals with audiences like church groups and schools, he has learned that each audience is different and adapts his shows toward that particular crowd.
The graduation ceremony also featured a slideshow with pictures of each sixth grade student and teacher prepared by sixth graders Annie Heckathorne, Derek Nichols and Dawn Smith.
Students involved with the Math Counts program and the Flag Patrol were recognized with award certificates for their hard work. As were students who achieved perfect attendance.
Spiess honored seven students for earning the President's Award for Academic Achievement by achieving a GPA of at least 3.5 or an 85 percent score on the math or the reading portion of the MEAP or an equivalent school test. Those students were: Kevin Muntz, Audrey Simmons, Kimberly Born, Ryan Jerdon, Daniel Pancoast, Monica Williams and Bethany Fortner.
He also honored 13 students for earning the President's Award for Academic Excellence, which means they surpassed all three of the criteria for the Academic Achievement Award. Those students were Kathryne Bailey, Chelsea Covyeou, Dakoda Udell, Christopher Dodge, Dawn Smith, Kelsie Holden, Anthena Heckathorne, Adrianna Rudlaff, Nicole Newman, Erik Wright, Derek Nichols, Allyson Stapleton and Brandon Scott.