Band instruments brightened the atmosphere with brassy music, people cheered from the sidelines and a river of eighth-graders strolled in the cool but rain-free air June 15 during Lake Oswego Junior High School's balloon-crossing ceremony.
"I'm excited to celebrate our past times and our memories," eighth-grader Miles Smith said. "And we get to walk out with our friends."
The annual event, held on the last day of school, features exiting LOJ students crossing Country Club Road and entering Lake Oswego High School as ninth-graders for the first time. Students march beneath an archway of balloons in the Sailor colors of red and white, and then travel under another archway made of blue and white balloons. Students wear T-shirts celebrating the year of their high school graduation. This time, it was 2021.
"I'm nervous, but I'm also excited," said Clara Sheppard as she strolled across Country Club Road.
Cameron Luther said he feels the same — "happy and nervous." He's looking forward to joining the Ski Club as soon as he sets foot in LOHS, he added.
Gigi Phelps said she, too, is thrilled about the opportunities in high school.
"There are going to be so many new classes," Phelps said.
She said she's also excited to meet new people, something she already had the chance to do at the assembly that students attended after making the big crossing, starting with LOHS Principal Rollin Dickinson.
In keeping with tradition, Dickinson declared, "We now pronounce you Lakers!"
Dickinson also continued a tradition he launched as the incoming head of LOHS last year, after Cindy Schubert retired. He recited the poem "Shake the Dust" by Anis Mojgani, which ends, "When the world knocks at your front door, clutch the knob tightly and open on up, and move forward and far into its widespread greeting arms with your hands outstretched before you, fingertips trembling though they may be."
Students clamored for him to share the lyrical piece again at the balloon-crossing assembly, he said.
LOJ Principal Sara Deboy said that Dickinson will be a great partner for the incoming students because he cares about them. Deboy said she wished she could be at LOHS for her former students as they enter ninth grade and with her current kiddos.
"I wish I could be here with you and there at the same time," Deboy said. "I wish I could clone myself."
Associated Student Body President Mya Hudson told the new students that people would be there to look after them during their time at LOHS.
"You will have an immaculate support system," Hudson said.
There will also be some familiar faces, such as LOHS freshman Casey Graver, another Sailor-turned-Laker.
"How does it feel to be done with LOJ?" he asked the gathering, inspiring scattered applause and some cheering. He said people would tell the new Lakers that getting involved was the most important thing, but being true to yourself matters most to him, Graver noted.
"The most important thing is to not change," he said.
There were even performances to welcome the newcomers. Freshman (rising sophomore) Lauren Joyce performed "Ho Hey" by The Lumineers, and juniors (now seniors) Jackson Schelonka, a singer, and Michael Campanelli, a pianist, entertained attendees with a rendition of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature."
Key staff members at LOHS introduced themselves, including Chris Hill, an LOHS leadership teacher. Laker Crew member Emma DeVine, a junior, and Laker Crew adviser and teacher Lisa Evonuk also let students know that their crew seeks to acclimate rookie students to their new high school environment.
Students also learned more about their new school, with Athletic Director Brigham Baker inviting students to partake of the many sports at LOHS. Baker said there will be lots of other opportunities to make connections too.
"You can't go through the next four years and not find somebody new," Baker noted.
Response-to-Intervention Coordinator Alissa Evans Censoni said that her job was to help all students with academics, particularly those who are struggling.
"I know you're going to have a great experience, but when things get tough, I'm here for you," Evans Censoni said.