A parade of young men and women passed by East Jackson Elementary School Thursday evening in a graduation parade as I stood in front snapping photos.

It was the night Jake and his friends would have been walking across the field receiving their high school diploma. Instead, another special event occurred. Since the graduation ceremony had to be cancelled, school leaders wanted the evening to still be special for these teenagers.

A parade was held with the graduates being driven by the high school, middle school and elementary school they attended. Former teachers and community members cheered as they passed by. I might have had a tear or two in my eyes as I saw Jake and his friends that I have watched grow up since elementary school pass by.

To the others on the sidewalk, I’m sure they saw young adults ready for the next chapter in their life. In my eyes, I saw the kids they will always be to me passing by.

When Camren Hardy passed by I saw that elementary school kid who first came to our house in that white Morph Halloween costume.

When Maddie Fowler passed by, I saw that second grade girl who hugged Jake as he was upset on the last day of school and told him it would be OK.

As Grace Palmer waved, I saw that young teenager in the pink dress going with Jake as his date to his first formal dance.

As for Hunter Harrell standing and waving from the jeep that passed by, he will always be the Lion from the Wizard of Oz in the eighth grade play to me.

Cloe smiled and yelled, “Hey Angie,” as she passed by and I saw that little girl in first grade who wanted to spend her birthday with Jake.

When Jake Varner passed by, I saw those little boys bowling at a birthday party in Athens.

I saw Hannah smiling and waving as she passed by and I remembered that young girl who went with us to Lake Lanier to see the Christmas lights.

Leah, Katie, Bradley passed by and I flashed back to those pre-teens who were at Jake’s birthday party that I snapped a photo of praying before they ate by the lake.

They are all going off in different directions now in this next chapter in their lives. I am excited for what is ahead for them and have enjoyed seeing them grow up.

It's certainly been different for high school graduates this year with many traditions being cancelled. The graduation parade is not the only new event for EJCHS seniors. A few weeks ago, the students got a nice surprise. A school bus stopped by their homes with principals and teachers dropping off a senior graduation sign for them.

I was at home when the big yellow school bus stopped off at our house with the sign for my nephew. My mother and sister went out with Jake when the bus pulled up. We cheered as he posed for photos with some of his teachers.

While some traditions were not possible this year, the seniors have enjoyed some new special events that have provided memories they will always cherish.

I know I will always cherish the memories I have of this special group. I am thankful Jake had such great friends during his years at EJCHS. I look forward to the things these young adults will accomplish in the future.

Angela Gary is an editor with MainStreet Newspapers Inc. She can be reached at angela@mainstreetnews.com.

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