It was one of the last times the Class of 2021 would file into the Robert L. Bland Middle School gymnasium as middle-schoolers, but on Wednesday morning last week, the middle school’s upper class made their way into the room and took their seats through processional.
As they sat, awaiting the completion of the Eighth Grade Continuation Ceremony, the students were surrounded by family, faculty members and peers cheering them on. Principal Julie Radcliff told the eighth-graders to remember those who helped lead them to this point in their lives: parents, guardians, grandparents and friends.
“They are an amazing group,” Radcliff said about the students. “They’re a large group. They’re a very talented group. They are very full of life. They have amazing personality, and you will find every different type of talent, excitement, enjoyment and hobbies, within this group of young men and women.”
Radcliff offered the students some advice, reminding them that there are three things in life they can never take back: a moment once it’s gone, words once spoken and time.
“These next four years will be some of the best years of your life,” Radcliff said, also telling the students to find what they love and get involved in groups and organizations at the high school. “Now is the beginning of the rest of your life.”
Del. Patrick Martin, R-Lewis, was expecting to be the keynote speaker for the ceremony, however, a special session of the West Virginia Legislature was called, and he couldn’t attend. Eighth Grade Teacher Tammie Lattea read a prepared message from Martin to the students.
“It wasn’t too long ago that I was your age and looking forward to beginning my high school years,” Lattea read from Martin’s statement. “In order to do well, I had to study, I had to do my homework, and most importantly, I had to listen and learn from my peers and my parents.
“At the age of 15, I began my own vending business, and called it Superior Vending. I worked hard, and it grew from one machine to over 150 machines. I sold the business when I was 19 years old, and with the profit, I began a property management company,” Lattea continued reading.
Martin ran for the West Virginia House of Delegates at the age of 23, and now, at age 24, he is the elected delegate for the 46th District.
“I tell you all of this so you will know and understand that nothing is impossible,” Martin stated. “Even when my friends laughed at me and adults did not take me seriously, and others made fun of me, I did not let that stop me from doing what I wanted to do in my life. I was determined. I worked hard. I stayed focused, and I will continue to do it every day for the rest of my life, even when things seem impossible or out of reach. Remember you can make it a reality.”
Lattea said she knew Martin as a student when she taught sixth grade math at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School in 2004.
“What stood out in my mind about Mr. Martin wasn’t the fact that he was one of my top students,” she said. “In fact, Mr. Martin was an average student, the type of kid that really has to pay attention to maintain a B/C average. Learning math did not come easily to him, but I knew that he would go far in life. I knew that he would succeed because he set goals and worked diligently toward them.”
Lattea said the year she met Martin, he launched the Young Republicans club at school.
She said he was very kind to his classmates, and respectful of his teachers.
“People will remember that about you, if you treat them with kindness,” she said.
After a choral performance by the seventh and eighth grade choir students, under the direction of Adam Loudin, the presentation of student recipients of the True Patriot awards by the various instructors who taught them, and the individual calling of student names by faculty, eighth-graders officially graduated from the middle school to the high school.
A slideshow of middle school memories was presented at the end of the ceremony.