John Williams danced, chanted and played the tenor saxophone Thursday morning as hundreds of Seminole Elementary School students passed through the tunnel he helped form into Hillsborough High School.
For the 22nd year, Seminole students traveled nine-tenths of a mile down Central Avenue to visit Hillsborough for the Walk to Graduation. The tradition aims to connect Hillsborough and its Seminole Heights neighbor and as a way to keep “eyes on the prize” that is graduating high school.
John is a sophomore at Hillsborough now, but it wasn’t all that long ago that he was one of the visiting students from Seminole. His most vivid memory involved the same type of performance he offered that morning.
“That’s one of the reasons I joined the band, because I loved the way they played when we did the walk,” he said. “We did this every year.”
“The fifth time,” he added, “we got a little tour, and that’s what made me want to come here.”
The Walk wasn’t just for fifth graders. All but a handful of students school-wide made the trip. Superintendent Jeff Eakins and Seminole Principal Jackie Masters (in her 19th walk) led the campaign south, past churches, historic homes, majestic oaks, the coffee shop where “No students, we are not stopping for a Frappuccino.” When the students crossed Hillsborough Avenue, drivers were no doubt befuddled to see an entire elementary school of nearly 500 people saunter past them.
Fifth-grader Alina was one of four students at the front of the line, holding a banner that fittingly said “Leading the Way.” She liked the walk because she was able to “see all the high schoolers and be the band and get our awards.”
She’s excited to be a future Terrier. Like many who attend the red brick school, it’s a family tradition.
“My grandma used to go to Hillsborough,” she said.
Hillsborough Principal Gary Brady formally welcomed the Seminole students to campus, told some jokes – “Our school is 132 years old, and football coach Earl Garcia has been here for 130 of them” – and then reinforced the ABCs necessary to complete the real (not metaphorical) walk to graduation.
He then led students in a chant they’ll get to know really well in just a few years: “Go Big Red!”
Superintendent Eakins followed with an inspirational message. Fifth graders got a tour of campus from members of the National Honor Society. Seminole used the picturesque Auditorium for its awards ceremony, to recognize students for citizenship and academic performance.
Two students even won bicycles, but they didn’t get to ride them back to Seminole. They walked.