By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor

A recent assembly at Lincoln High School drew a ‘full house’ of Lincoln Middle School eighth graders.  They listened as administrators offered input on the importance of becoming ‘active participants’ as high school freshmen.

While administrators and staff at Lincoln High School are busy preparing for graduation ceremonies this Saturday for the Class of 2017, they also took the time to host a special assembly for the next school year’s incoming 9th grade class last Friday afternoon.    The theme of the assembly was “No Empty Seats”, a project organized by Lincoln High School’s Graduation 20/20 Committee.

That first day of school, moving from a familiar environment as an eighth grade middle school student into the role of an incoming high school freshman, can be somewhat daunting.  This assembly was geared toward easing some of that “newcomer” discomfort while also stressing some key points to having a successful high school career.

“The seats in our gymnasium were already in position for graduation, and we brought in those incoming freshmen in alphabetical order and let them sit in the seats our current graduating class will sit in for graduation, allowing them to see what it will be like,” said Assistant Principal Holly Hawkins, who headed the 20/20 Committee.

Lincoln Principal Jimmy Lopez welcomed the students and spoke to them about the importance of attending school every day, passing coursework, earning credits and getting involved in school activities – whether it is through athletics, band, clubs and/or service organizations, etc.  Mr. Lopez said, “It is a proven fact that those who become actively involved in their school do better in school.  And this is in addition to academics.”

Mr. Lopez asked the students to look to their left and to their right and notice that all the seats were filled by their peers.  That is the same picture that school administrators are hoping to see in 2021 when they are the graduates.  No Empty Seats!

Lincoln High School was recognized this year by the West Virginia Department of Education for having one of the highest graduation rates in the state – 96%.   They want this outstanding ranking to remain … thus the emphasis on “no empty seats”!

In addition to Mr. Lopez, those speaking to the students included Assistant Principals Holly Hawkins and Russ McKeen, Counselors Susan DeBlossio and Jessica Freeman, and newly elected Student Body President Jaye Carvelli.  The National Honor Society, Challenge program and NJROTC program were also involved.

At the conclusion of the assembly, each of the students walked across the stage (as they will do during their own graduation exercises) and was given a ‘Future Class of 2021’ t-shirt along with a bag of LHS memorabilia.  Their class advisors shook hands with them as they exited the stage.

The incoming group of freshmen starting the new school year in the fall will be a large one – 148 students.

Mrs. Hawkins concluded, “We were impressed that they are well-behaved and attentive throughout the assembly.  We really hope that the advice they were given left a clear message with them to stay focused during their high school years.  I made a few notes and plan to tweak the program somewhat next year, but we will definitely be doing this again next year.”

As of press time, no definite call had been made as to whether or not graduation ceremonies for the 122 Lincoln graduates on Saturday would be held indoors in the gymnasium or outdoors at Stydahar Field.  That call will be largely dependent upon weather conditions and is yet to be determined.

While Lincoln Middle School students were introduced last week to their new high school environment, the LHS Class of 2017 was preparing to bid good-bye to their alma mater.  On Tuesday, this year’s graduating class boarded school buses, donning their caps and gowns to “walk through the halls”, reminiscing and revisiting both Big Elm Elementary School and Lumberport Elementary School.  While sifting through their memories, they were greeted by former teachers and by cheers from children still too young to fully imagine what graduation day means. But hopefully the caps and gowns left an impression on them that graduating from high school is a 12-year process they have already begun … and with attention and focus, they will complete – eventually looking to the left and right and finding NO EMPTY SEATS!