LAKE SARANAC – The footsteps of 79 elderly people thundered down the stairwells of Petrova Elementary School as they prepared to burst through a veil of streamers, down a hallway where elementary students waited with roses, cheers and giant prints of the heads of the elderly.
The energy was palpable as seniors filed through the room, their graduation cap tassels bouncing as they clapped the hands of younger students. They had just arrived from Bloomingdale’s Elementary School, where they received a similar welcome.
Elementary and middle school students had been waiting for this all day, making posters and preparing to shout. The seniors had been waiting for this all year, studying and working hard to make it through. Teachers and school staff had been waiting for this for years, watching the senior class grow and be ready for the world.
Dean of Petrova students, Katie Laba, said she had some of the seniors when they were in kindergarten. Teachers and staff created cards for the elderly, and in some of the cards she contributed to, she included letters they had written to her at the time.
“It’s good for all children to know the end goal, that their hard work now pays off”, Laba said. “And that we still have a connection with the children even when they leave our building.”
Katie Gaylord, a councilor who helped organize the seniors’ march, said the event was about celebrating all the little moments that turned into big moments in the beginning.
“It’s really monumental” said Gaylord. “It’s our ‘why’ – why we do what we do for children.”
For Gaylord, the day was “bittersweet”. This graduation will be her last in Saranac Lake before she returns to her first home in Virginia. She said a part of her heart will remain in Saranac Lake.
The Saranac Lake Seniors Walk began about five years ago after school staff saw the idea on the Internet. It was the first time in two years that seniors could take the walk, after two years of the coronavirus pandemic.
After the parade, in the middle school gymnasium, the seniors took a group photo with the graduating students of grades 5 and 8.
As they walked down the halls of their old school, the elders got lost and had to turn around to find a stairwell. It might have been a while since the seniors had walked down these halls, but they still remembered their teachers. After the parade, they clamored to meet the teachers who had laid their educational foundations so they could pay their respects, catch up, and celebrate their impending graduation.
The senior class of 82 students from Saranac Lake Central School District will graduate on June 24.