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Education

Before getting their diplomas, these Yukon High School seniors go back to elementary school

High school graduation isn’t just about celebrating what’s ahead – it’s also a way for students to mark where they came from.

In Yukon, that means going back to where it all started: their old elementary school.

Ranchwood Elementary School hosted a ceremony in late May for Class of 2022 students who previously attended.

Graduate Ivan Ramirez led his classmates on a march through Ranchwood.

“I'm very excited to be the leader, because I've never been a leader before,” Ramirez said as the students got ready to march to the iconic tune of Pomp and Circumstance.

The students – with their family, friends and former teachers snapping cell phone pictures – snaked their way from the Ranchwood cafeteria, through the halls and out through the elementary gym. All the while, current students at the K-3 school cheered and made noise with kazoos and bells.

The event was special for former teachers like Renae McGregor. She was a first grade teacher for many of these students and drove up from nearby Union City to be at Ranchwood.

“This is something that I looked forward to every year,” when she was a teacher, McGregor said. “I missed last year because of COVID. So this is actually the first group of kids I actually get to come back and see.”

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Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma
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Kristin Lipe is the principal at Ranchwood Elementary School. She said she was excited to welcome graduating seniors back for the first time since this annual ceremony was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The tradition was forced into a hiatus by the pandemic. So to experience it again is special, said principal Kristin Lipe.

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Ivan Ramirez in third grade

“This is the reason I come and do my job every day,” Lipe said. “It’s to see these kids rise above a lot of different circumstances that they face and just to see them become young adults… I can’t wait to see where their journey takes them to the next stage.”

The journey has come full circle for Ramirez and Lipe.

Ramirez was a frequent guest of Lipe’s office. The principal described her former student as “a stinker.”

But when she saw him again, those little issues didn’t matter. She was simply proud of the young man he’d become. Ramirez is planning to attend Oklahoma City Community College in the fall.

“She actually came up to me and hugged me,” Ramirez said. “She recognized me, and I was like, of course she would. I knew she would recognize me.”

“This time, she actually had a smile on her face.”

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