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High school grads make triumphant return to PECS

BRIGHTON — The high school graduates had been gone for four years, but on May 14 a dozen former Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School students proudly walked through the halls of the K-8 school dressed in colorful caps and gowns for all to see.

Every PECS student and teacher lined up outside of their classrooms to celebrate the success of these homegrown grads. The young adults shared high fives, hugs and even a few tears with students and teachers as they walked by culture, elementary and middle school classrooms.

“We want you to walk the halls so the younger ones will want to do the same,” PECS administrative assistant Michele Thomas said to the grads. “We want you to keep in touch with us. Don’t think no one is watching you, because we are.”

It was the second year PECS invited high school graduate alumni to show off and set an example for younger students. The event has caught on around the country and, as at PECS, the grads are met with cheers and accolades.

Before they took to the school’s hallways, the graduates convened in a room off the gym to put on their caps and gowns, pose for photos, enjoy a snack and watch their PECS eighth-grade video. Giggles, groans and comments erupted during the video. Afterward, the Center for Student Success and Services staff addressed the grads.

“Our job is to support you beyond today,” said Alvaro Perez, higher education program manager. “Whether you stay locally or are going away, we will always be able to help you out.”

Brighton K-12 advisor Keivon Bell had some practical words for the grads.

“Find something you are passionate about and can do for another 10 or 20 years,” Bell said. “Do what you feel is best for you. Don’t do something because of the money, follow your passion.”

The grads’ first stop was in the PECS office. They wanted to see school counselor Jeanine Gran, who couldn’t stop her tears of joy as she hugged each former student.

The procession snaked through the school’s halls to applause, festive signs and more hugs from teachers. In the middle school area, sixth-grader Cece Thomas proudly held up a sign touting her big sister Camryn Thomas’s success. It read “My sister is a grad PECS to LP now to ABAC.” LP stands for Lake Placid High School, ABAC is Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia.

“It was heartwarming and cute,” said Camryn, 18.

Camryn’s wasn’t the only heart that was warmed by the experience.

“It was nostalgic and brought up complex feelings,” said Pernell Bert, 18, who plans to enlist in the Marines. “I saw a lot of old teachers, nieces and nephews here today.”

“It felt great to go back and reminisce about old times and all the fun we had at this school,” said Morgan King, 18, who plans to attend Indian River State College or South Florida State College.

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at

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