STUDENTS | May 13, 2021
Soon-to-be Portage Park Elementary School graduates Amanda, Cassidy, Ethan, Leon, Mariah, and Nati entered the school at different times, ranging from pre-k through seventh grade. They have different interests both inside and outside of the classroom—math, anatomy, skateboarding, basketball, and jewelry making, to name a few.
And, next year, none of them are going to high school together; they’re off to Lane Tech, Von Steuben, Taft, Lincoln Park, Disney II, and the list goes on.
But they also have a lot in common. They all persevered through a year of learning from home. Above all else, they have a seemingly endless list of memories from their time together.
Amanda remembers an Easter egg hunt she participated in as a kindergartener. While she was disappointed that she didn’t find any of the little eggs hidden around the school, it ended up being a great day when the students who did find them shared their contents with the entire class.
Leon’s mind goes straight to third grade. One of his friends had the biggest stack of Pokémon cards he had ever seen, and he wanted to start his own stack to fit in. He started with just one card, and, by the end of the year, had a decent-sized stack of his own.
The students laugh thinking about how the trends have changed. The thrill of Pokémon cards wore off over the years, only to be replaced by the thrill of…TikTok…
Top Row, Left to Right: Leon S., Cassidy C., Ethan K. | Bottom Row, Left to Right: Mariah S., Nati K., Amanda K.
A transformative experience they can agree upon is having Ms. Nguyen for math in the sixth grade. They bonded over all the Khan Academy assignments they needed to complete and moved on to seventh grade with a deeper understanding of the importance of hard work.
Seventh grade brought even more fun experiences, from being reading buddies with the pre-k students to the winter formal. Mariah will never forget the dance circle that was formed, with everyone supporting one of the younger students who decided to dance in front of them.
Even though their eighth-grade year is winding down, the learning isn’t stopping, especially now that it’s happening in person. Cassidy, whose favorite subject is science, says she’s currently learning about motion and friction, topics that will certainly prepare her for physics in high school.
Maturity is one characteristic Principal Maureen Wood will remember about the Class of 2021. She especially saw growth between their seventh- and eighth-grade years, and says she can easily picture them being successful in the future because they are graduating on such a high note.
Nati would describe her graduating class as connected. She explains that while everyone has their own unique personality, they all understand and relate to each other. This has helped her open up more.
If Ethan were to go back to his first year at Portage Park, pre-k, he would encourage himself to start practicing his basketball skills a little earlier because his competition in eighth grade is pretty good. He says the dynamic between him and his peers is chaotic in the best possible way.
So, how do you sum up all the laughs, assignments, friendships, and successes? What comes to mind for the Portage Park Class of 2021 is a line from The Outsiders, one of the books they read together as a class.
For some, “Nothing gold can stay” might represent sadness as one moves on from a part of their life that has been enjoyable. But, for these six Portage Park graduates, knowing that their time in elementary school has been golden—they’ve made great friends and had a lot of fun together—is providing a sense of optimism with less than a month to go until graduation.