It was a bittersweet rally on April 28 at the Forest Park Middle School. The teachers were saying goodbye to one class and welcoming an entirely new and different group at the Fifth Grade welcoming pep rally.

“Eighth grade, this is your last pep rally, one of the reasons we have this pep rally is to recognize all of you who have participated in school activities,” said principal Karen Bukowski.

Amidst rowdy cheers of “Oh-Five,” “Oh-Six” and “Oh-Seven” approximately 130 fifth graders from throughout the district sat on the sidelines getting their first taste of middle school.

This is the first year that the fifth graders have been invited to participate in the final pep rally at the Middle School. Their inclusion was masterminded by next year’s sixth grade teachers.

“Their feeling was we needed to do something to get the kids excited about middle school and I think it might have worked,” Bukowski said.

“I wanted to get them a little bit more involved,” said Phil Radke, one of next year’s sixth grade teachers. “It was our understanding a lot of fifth graders were a little scared but we are one big happy family.”

Donna Budill, one of the longest serving teachers in the district, added the rally was designed to introduce the fifth graders to the school song and all the activities they can do.

“It will make them more comfortable and get them introduced to some of the traditions; they will learn the school song and all of our activities will be valued,” she said.

The fifth grade teachers agreed it was a great idea.

“They want to instill some of the middle school spirit,” said Susan Bogdan with Field-Stevenson Elementary School. “They have their middle school tour [May 3] this is to get them excited. All the fifth graders will be joining and have been in separate schools, now they are going to be one big class.”

And big they will be: next year’s sixth is one of the largest classes at Field.

“It is the biggest one we will have had in the last four years I have been here,” Bukowski said.

And the students could not be more excited.

“I can’t wait to be here. It is not so fun being in elementary school, you don’t get to do sports and try out for things,” said Corey Sansone, a fifth grader at Field.

Savannah Williams, 11, from Betsy Ross agreed.

“I think it is going to be very
interesting and different to meet new kids and be changing classes,” she said, adding that she wants to try out for cheerleading, basketball and

For her part, Hillary Fuller, 11, from Grant-White, said she can’t wait to play sports and cheer, adding that it isn’t all about the sports, but also about the new academic challenges.

“I look forward to the challenges this school will give me and to be the best,” she said.

Not all the students were saying hello to the school, however, as the eight graders were living through the beginning of their goodbyes to middle school life, while trying to be role-models for the upcoming class.

Adrienne Decker, 14, was among those students. Next year she will be going to the Proviso Math and Science Academy, where she will no longer be able to be in the band.

“A lot of my friends are going to Fenwick,” she said, adding that is what she would miss the most.

To the fifth graders, she advises active participation.

“There is lots of school spirit here. Go meet new people and go do a bunch of extra curricular activities,” she said. “It makes it better.

As the class of Oh-five gave their last class cheer, Samantha Grams, 14, reflected on her experiences at the Middle School and her future at Fenwick.

“It has been a great experience, I have loved to play sports and had really great teachers,” she said. “To the fifth graders, work hard and never give up, but have fun.”