MARQUETTE - Though Marquette resident Paula Hubert was bursting with pride as her youngest child, Teddi, graduated from school May 30, she also felt somewhat sad.
"We're sad to be done," Hubert said. "It's really bittersweet."
Though Hubert's youngest will continue with school, it won't be done at college. Instead, Teddi's education will continue as a kindergartner in Marquette Area Public Schools as Teddi was part of the graduating class of 2012 from St. Christophers Family Day School in Marquette.
Aria Espinoza, 5, and Bella Coleman, 5, sing during their graduation ceremony from the St. Christophers Day School of Marquette. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Brecken Goodwin smiles as he makes his way to his seat during the ceremony. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Olivia Murvich, 5, walks down the aisle formed between the rows of onlooking parents and relatives. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Students sing and dance during their graduation ceremony. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Held in St. Christophers Church, Hubert said the graduation ceremony for the preschool students was heartwarming. Each of Hubert's three children attended preschool at St. Christophers.
"The love here is amazing," she said. "My oldest cried every day (when I dropped him off) until Christmas. Now, he still comes back and loves it ... It's not just a school, it's a family."
Program Director Kim Specker said the family angle was important to her and the rest of the staff at St. Christophers and that she hopes students that grow up will send their own kids to the preschool.
Specker said there were a few St. Christophers graduates in the audience during the May 30 ceremony. She said she enjoys watching the students grow from as young as 2 years old into young adults.
"We had a group of older siblings - who I refer to as our alumni - they were singing the songs that we sang and they were sitting on the sidelines in support of their younger siblings," Specker said. "It was beautiful."
Specker said the school holds a graduation ceremony every year, which is as much for the students as it is for the parents, grandparents, siblings and other family members who attend.
"When you show them that you're proud of them, it shows that you value who they are and what they do," Specker said, adding that there a multitude of benefits to enrolling children in early education. "Saying goodbye, separating from parents is such a huge milestone, to experience that in a preschool setting before they get into that kindergarten room is very important."
Plenty of people were proud of the graduates as the room was quickly filled to standing room only. A quick glance over the crowd showed almost as many cameras and video recorders as people.
The ceremony included musical performances by the entire group of students of "My God is So Big," "The Alphabet Medley" and "Chicken Fun."
Each student's name was called and they stood to receive recognition for their achievements.
After the ceremony was finished, the families were welcome to refreshments and cake and were offered a memory book before they left.
The books held a compilation of photographs of the parents' child throughout his or her days at St. Christophers, a letter written by the students to themselves - not to be opened until they turned 18 - and a certificate of graduation.
Specker said preschools offer a vital resource to parents as they help prepare young children for their elementary school days.
"We are in the business of building relationships with children and families and through these relationships we hope to nurture confident learners and put parents at ease knowing their children are moving forward, ready to face the challenges in their formal schooling careers," she said.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.