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First 8th-grade classes graduate from single-gender schools (video)

CMSD students, staff and community members came together this week for several historic graduation ceremonies.

The District’s single-gender elementary schools — Douglas MacArthur Girls’ Leadership Academy, Kenneth W. Clement Boys’ Leadership Academy, Valley View Boys’ Leadership Academy, and Warner Girls’ Leadership Academy — are all celebrating their first graduating classes of eighth-graders. The schools, which have proved to be popular options, opened in 2007 with kindergarten through second grade and have added a grade per year.

“I feel special,” 14-year-old Warner graduate Alexis Tate said. “Just walking across the stage and getting my packet, which says that I’m crossing over to the next grade, and now I can start a new adventure in my life -- ninth grade -- it’s a great accomplishment.”

Alexis finished second in her class and gave a speech as the salutatorian to the 30 other inaugural graduates. The group is affectionately known as the Warner Wildflowers, reflecting on the plants' resilience and ability to grow in tough spots.

Her mother, Nicole, and the other parents at the promotion ceremony on Tuesday morning couldn't have been prouder as the girls walked symbolically under an arch and headed into the future. Students have chosen a District high school that best suits their interests and needs, and some are even on a three-year graduation track.

“I was elated to see her walk through that arch, it just let me know she’s no longer an eighth-grader,” Nicole Tate said. “She’s onto high school, which is exciting but scary at the same time. I know the four years are going to go by so fast. I’m going to blink and she’ll be in college.”

Tate’s mother said her daughter’s work ethic and personality blossomed during her time at Warner. That time is also flying by for the staff.

“This is a dream come true,” Warner Principal Audrey Staton-Thompson said. “In 2006, I was a part of the mere paperwork of dreaming this school, and to actually see it come to fruition, the girls in second grade to now eighth grade, it’s just so exciting.”

It's also an exciting milestone for the whole district with the three other single-gender academies.
“It speaks to the preparedness of our students and our talented staff,” CMSD Director of New and Innovative Schools Lisa Farmer Cole said. “It felt like being a part of a nice piece of history, something positive in our city.”

CMSD is looking forward to many more graduations to come from the academies.

“This day is just one I don't ever want to forget, and I hope it’s an experience they’ll never forget,” Staton-Thompson said. “Thirty years from now if they have children or grandchildren, I hope they say, 'I’m sending her to Warner.’"

Staton-Thompson plans to set up an alumni program at Warner for the graduates and their parents, so they can keep attracting future generations.