The young students have always looked up to their older brothers and sisters.
On Thursday, that was evident as they stood in the hallways of Crothersville Elementary School holding signs they made to congratulate the seniors as they wore red or white caps and gowns for the annual Senior Walk.
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Tonight, they will watch their older siblings walk across the stage in the Crothersville High School gymnasium — again wearing their caps and gowns — to receive their high school diplomas.
“I liked being able to see the smile on his face and how proud he was. I could see how everyone was so happy for him,” fourth grader Raegan Wray said of watching her older brother, Jacob James, participate in the Senior Walk.
“I was feeling pride for him because he was making it,” she said. “He is the first person in my family that I’ve seen go to college. It’s kind of sad because he’s going to college and I won’t be able to see him all of the time.”
James said he plans to continue with the Ivy Tech Community College welding program that he started in high school.
“He works a lot and keeps his head on goals and he gets them done,” Wray said of her brother.
As James continues studying at Ivy Tech, Wray offered him some advice.
“Keep your eyes ahead, don’t fall, and if you do, just get back up,” she said.
James is among the 25 seniors who participated in the Senior Walk early Thursday morning.
“It was awesome,” he said, smiling. “A lot of memories, and I got to see my sister and my cousins.”
When he was in elementary, James said he remembers going to the zoo and other field trips. Now, he is set to graduate from high school.
“It went by too fast,” he said.
As the elementary students watched the Senior Walk, James said he hopes they saw the seniors’ accomplishments and are motivated to keep moving forward.
“I hope they stay in school and achieve their goals, just keep working hard and do your schoolwork,” he said.
Second grader Brooklynn Lloyd got to see her older brother, Devon Pedigo, walk in cap and gown through the elementary school hallways.
“It was exciting,” she said, smiling.
It made her think of all of the ways her brother has helped her over the years.
“He helped me when I didn’t know how to tie my shoes. He helped me do that, and he helped me when I got a scar on my knee,” she said. “He has been teaching me some stuff, and he has helped me a lot in everything. I think he’s very helpful, and it’s very sad to see him (graduate from high school and leave home).”
Pedigo said as he walked through the hallways, his sister definitely stood out.
“It was pretty cool because I remember whenever I was little and being in elementary school because it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago,” he said. “It’s pretty crazy to think about it because I remember when I was in fifth grade, I thought I was a big kid. And then looking on it now, I’m like, ‘Wow! I was like that at one point.’”
Pedigo said he hopes his sister follows his footsteps.
“I hope she goes through and graduates,” he said. “I hope she stays in school and does good in school. I don’t want to see her fail.”
Senior Ethan Deaton said seeing his sister, fifth grader Aly McCullah, and the other elementary students excited about the Senior Walk was a great start to his next-to-last day of high school.
“It makes me feel good because you really want to quit a lot of times in school, and then they are all so excited,” he said. “It was a lot of fun because they really make you feel good because little kids are so honest. It was nice.”
Seniors Brandon Riley and Maddie Riley, who are cousins, also have siblings in the elementary school.
Brandon’s sister, Bella Riley, is in fourth grade, and brother, Braxton, is in third grade. They also have another sibling who will start kindergarten in the fall.
“It was awesome,” Bella said of seeing her older brother.
“He was good at walking,” Braxton joked.
For Brandon, the walk was a stroll down memory lane.
“It brought back some memories from when I was little and these were my hallways,” he said, noting most of the teachers had changed.
When his siblings enter high school, Brandon said he hopes they follow the same path he did of earning an associate degree in general studies from Ivy Tech through the Austin Crothersville Early College Initiative.
While Brandon is joining the U.S. Air Force after high school, his siblings have different plans for the future. Bella said she wants to be a teacher or a veterinarian, and Braxton wants to be a YouTuber.
No matter what they choose to do, Brandon said he hopes the best for his siblings.
“I hope that they stick close to all of their classmates and they can keep the same friend group going all the way and then be able to do this with all of their friends,” he said of the Senior Walk. “I like how they’ve always kept the tradition here and that it’s just something that all seniors can look forward to. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, very nice. It brought some tears to people, too.”
Fifth grader Baron Riley watched his older brother, Brady Riley, participate in the Senior Walk in 2017 and on Thursday got to see his sister, Maddie Riley, take the walk.
“It’s neat because she made it. She graduated,” Baron said.
He said he is proud of both of his siblings for completing the early college program and moving on after high school.
“They are both following their dreams, so they pretty much are inspiring me to do what my dream is,” Baron said, adding he wants to be a neurologist someday.
As for his message to Maddie as she graduates tonight, Baron said, “I would say, ‘Keep following your dreams, and just keep your head up.’”