Southeast Middle School students say farewell at annual breakfast

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 10, 2017

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — It was the last day of school, and for students at Southeast Middle School, the eighth-grade end-of-school breakfast is a tradition many have looked forward to during their long, final year.

Each year, students dress up in freshly pressed shirts, ties, sundresses and evening gowns. As they walk through the hallway of Livingstone College’s Culinary Arts Center, they peer up at the tall ceiling and its atrium-style glass.

Principal Jennifer Lentz said Southeast Middle has been holding the breakfast for roughly 12 years — long enough that when it started, the building was still a Holiday Inn. Now, it houses Livingstone’s culinary arts department, which has a strong relationship with Southeast thanks to the Film@6 program, a summer camp that helps rising sixth-graders adjust to middle school.

Even though Friday was an early-release day, Lentz said, the school squeezed the annual tradition in.

“Our kids have had this experience for years, and we weren’t going to take this away from them,” she said.

About 250 of the school’s more than 300 eighth-graders turned up Friday morning, determined to get a final, fond memory of their middle school years.

“Most of us are trying to savor these last moments,” eighth-grader Cesar Campuzano Moran said.

Students are allowed to sit with anyone they choose, regardless of class or team. It’s Southeast Middle’s final gift to students, teacher and organizer Debbie Parker said.

“It just helps them to have closure,” she said.

Southeast is unique among the district’s middle schools. Students can end up attending about five different high schools, depending on attendance zones — and that’s not counting schools of choice like Rowan County Early College or North Rowan High School.

So for some students, the breakfast is the last time they will regularly see people they’ve known since kindergarten.

“We’ve got to leave some of our best friends behind . . . so that’s going to be hard to adapt to,” student Mason Furches said.

As students filled their plates with food prepared by Livingstone’s culinary arts department, piling up on eggs, bacon and pancakes, they reflected on the years they’re leaving behind and what lies ahead. The year has been more challenging than usual, students said, as teachers prepared them to tackle high school. And they’re anticipating that the transition is going to be a bit of a bumpy one.

“It’s a lot different than it was going from elementary to middle school,” student Katlin Weddington said.

“The big thing is going to be going to the bottom of the rung again,” said Alex London.

For students, and teachers, the breakfast is a way to close out the year and to prepare students to take that final leap toward the future.

“We don’t call it a graduation, but it’s got that feel,” Parker said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.