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I remember my sixth-grade class at Alice Birney Elementary School had a little graduation ceremony. My grandparents were in town from Maine, so I remember thinking, “Wow, this must be a really big deal.”

I recall I had product in my hair and wore my first-ever button-up shirt. We all sat in hard folding chairs in the cafeteria, as the principal gave a little speech, and then the music class at the time performed some version of “Pomp and Circumstance,” although it could have been some different song, but at this point that’s how my memory is calling it.

We all got called up one by one and received a little piece of paper saying that we had been promoted out of the sixth grade and we were all headed to that next phase in our lives.

Everybody clapped, and then my family took me to ice cream.

I found out later that my grandparents just happened to be on vacation in California at that time and were able to attend. This fact didn’t make the ceremony any less memorable. We were all sad about leaving this one classroom and recess part of our lives, but equally as excited about the prospects of a non-recess world — one where we would be changing classes every 50 minutes and the undiscovered world of school dances.

There were even rumors about people dating.

It was a big, exciting and scary time in our lives. However it represented a transitionary time in our lives.

My middle school plans were skirted a bit when we moved out to the peninsula, and my dreams of transitioning classes were dashed as my new district put me at Peninsula Union School. It was a great school, and I still have some of my best friends from that era of my life, however, it only had one classroom with seventh- and eighth-graders mixed together.

I didn’t get to participate in that graduation ceremony, because half way through my eighth-grade year my family had moved to Las Vegas, and I attended a year-round school. Even though I didn’t get to participate, I did attend the graduation, as we still had kept a house up here, and we traveled back and forth, and I was able to watch all of my friends graduate.

I at least got to bask in the shared nerves and excitement of myself and all of my peers transitioning to the biggest jump yet … high school.

I had seen all of the John Hughes high school movies at this point and knew quite the interesting ride was ahead of us.

When I graduated high school, I didn’t quite feel the same butterflies. My mother was sick at the time, so I knew I wouldn’t be jumping into any big transitions quite yet. I do, however, have a very strong memory from as soon as they announced the graduating class, this feeling of how all of the labels we had accumulated throughout high school such as “jock” or “preppy” or anything in between had instantly evaporated. Everybody was on an even playing field now, and there was a real excitement in the air.

When I took over supervising the afterschool programs for the city, the recreation leader staff would often invite me to attend their college graduation ceremonies and, in the beginning, I would oblige. It was cool from a mentor and supervisor role to watch the excitement and nerves of the staff I’ve watched mature go into the next phase of the lives. Oftentimes, that meant staying on the team and enhancing their role.

As the years went on, however, I had to establish a firm “no graduation ceremonies” rule, as we averaged anywhere between 60 to 70 staff each year and, after a while, if I attended every ceremony I was invited to, I would literally spend all day sitting at the Humboldt State bleachers.

All of last weekend you could feel the graduation excitement in the air, with people in their 20s giving walking tours all around town to their families and looks of elation on people’s faces, celebrating this big milestone in their lives.

I’m sure the afterglow in still into effect for most of these individuals and the “now what” factor is starting to kick in a bit.

My role has changed over the last few years, and I find myself with a much smaller staff than I have in the past. Last weekend, while I didn’t attend the ceremonies, two of my now only five-member staff graduated from college, and what’s exciting for me is that they are actually staying on with our team and enhancing their careers with us.

It’s like me graduating all over again, because I get the benefit of transitioning with them, as we grow our team. Two amazing young professionals who are choosing to stay in this community and contribute.

It’s an exciting time.

Brian Millett is a project manager for the City of Eureka-Community Services.

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