Stephanie Sumner, Charlotte Central School Principal
For the past few weeks Charlotte Central School (CCS) has had many different celebrations. Most have been in recognition of the learning that students in all grades have done this year. Our final week of school features many celebrations, the most obvious being our Eighth Grade Graduation on the evening of June 14. As a teacher and a principal, I have always enjoyed these special moments. It’s important to bring our families and community members into our school to celebrate accomplishments!
While I enjoy all of our celebrations, I can say without a doubt that my very favorite celebration at CCS is our Carnation Ceremony. Twice a year we hold this ceremonial exchange of carnations between our kindergarteners and eighth-grade students. During the opening assembly of the school year, our eighth graders present each new kindergarten student with a carnation as a symbolic and official welcome to our school family. Each June, in between Step Up activities and the Middle Level Awards Ceremony, we hold our second Carnation Ceremony, during which our kindergarten students present each eighth grader with a carnation as a symbolic and ceremonial send-off as our eighth graders prepare to move on to high school.
In the span of the nine years during which our students move from kindergarten through eighth grade, they not only move through an incredible academic trajectory but also develop an increasing set of personal and social skills that are essential for them as they move on to pursue their passions. If you are lucky enough to be seated in the Multi-Purpose Room at CCS during a Carnation Ceremonies (bring tissues!), you will get a glimpse of many of those personal and social skills being practiced as our oldest and youngest students symbolically integrate responsibility, empathy, perseverance, connection and confidence, just to name a few.
The symbolism of the carnation itself is debated and diverse, depending on the sources you consult. Carnations have existed for more than 2,000 years and are often associated with the concept of coronation, as carnations were used in Greek ceremonial crowns. Coronation seems fitting for our Carnation Ceremony—a sort of crowning our new students in the fall and our exiting students in the spring. Regardless of the symbolism, we get to witness our own unique manifestations in CCS’s Carnation Ceremonies. There is something very special about being a K-8 school, and entering and leaving both kindergarten and eight grade represent monumental moments in the life of a student. Our Carnation Ceremonies represent and celebrate the “full-circle” movement of our youngest and oldest students in their nine years with us.
Commencing each year with this ceremony sets a tone and sends messages to our newest CCS family members: You are welcome here, you are celebrated, we are here for you, and you can count on us. Ending the year with this ceremony sends the same messages to our CCS family members moving on to new endeavors, in addition to the ceremonial messages often associated with graduation: Thank you for being here, you have been important to our school, we are proud of and thankful for you, and now you are ready to fly!