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With camcorders rolling and flashbulbs popping, eighth-graders at the Forest Park Middle School celebrated the end of an era as they look forward to new adventures in high school and beyond.

Members of the graduating class turned their tassels during a June 6 ceremony at Proviso East High School, while family and friends cheered their accomplishments. More than 20 of the 86 graduates were recognized for their academic performance. Four students shared valedictory honors.

“I can’t help but wonder what’s going to be within your reach,” Melanie DeLuc, a co-valedictorian said during her commencement speech.

DeLuc pondered which of her classmates would become doctors, teachers, musicians or even president of the United States. The possibilities are endless, DeLuc said, and so is the likelihood for success.

“We are the future,” she said. “Class of 2007, let’s make it a good one.”

But before they can tackle the world, Forest Park’s eighth-graders must first tackle high school. More than 30 of the graduates will attend one of three Proviso Township high school campuses. Roughly another two dozen students will divide themselves between St. Joseph and Oak Park and River Forest High School. The remainder will attend various private and public institutions in the area.

Middle School Principal Karen Bukowski encouraged her former students not to fear the next step in their educational careers, and reminded them of how nervous many of them were on the first day of their sixth-grade year. No one was lost in the maze of hallways and locker assignments, and they all managed to dissect a frog while studying Shakespeare and the Holocaust, Bukowski said.

“None of us can predict the future, but I do want to step out on a limb here and say in 2011, all of you will be graduating high school,” Bukowski said.

The ceremony marked a landmark not only for the students and their families, but for Superintendent Randolph Tinder as well. Tinder is retiring after joining the district in 2000. In his remarks before presenting the students as the graduating class of 2007, Tinder asked students to join him in looking forward to their yet-to-be-defined futures. A calendar in his office celebrates his last day with District 91, June 29, as “the beginning.”

“Tonight will close the door on your childhood and open the door onto whatever you’ll become as adults,” Tinder said.