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Mars Class of 2022 walks through school journey

Senior students high-five fifth-grade students in the hallway of Mars Area Centennial School on Wednesday. Julia Maruca/Butler Eagle

ADAMS TWP — On June 1, the Mars Area Class of 2022 members will celebrate the end of their journey through the public school system at a graduation commencement ceremony.

But on Wednesday, the graduating seniors went on a journey of a different kind, walking through the halls of each Mars Area School District building — the Primary Center, Elementary, Centennial, and Middle schools — to reminisce on the years passed by in their past classrooms.

Emily Miracle, 17, hugs her first-grade teacher, Sasha Zavacky, in the Mars Area Primary Center building Wednesday. Julia Maruca/Butler Eagle

Dressed in purple caps and gowns, the Class of 2022 walked through the halls and was met by hundreds of cheering kids from grades K-8, who had made signs, posters, and decorations to send the seniors off on their way.

This year’s iteration of the senior walk event was the first since the pandemic and saw teachers, administrators and students of all ages eager to celebrate the graduating class.

First-grade reading specialist Sasha Zavacky ran into one of her former first-grade students, Emily Miracle, and greeted her with a hug. Miracle, 17, will attend Robert Morris University after graduation.

“It’s so nice, it’s so emotional,” Zavacky said. “I’m really excited for all of them and the journeys they are going to be taking.”

“We haven’t been able to do it because of COVID, so it’s nice to see all their faces again,” she added.

Isabel McEwen, 5, holds up signs Wednesday to cheer on Mars Area students who will graduate this year. Julia Maruca/Butler Eagle 05/2022

Primary school teacher Greta Huggins stood with her first-grade class in the hall, waiting to greet the graduating seniors. Students held up signs reading “You did it!” and “Way to go!”

At Mars Area Centennial School, fifth-grade teacher Alyssa Fertig said her class had been looking forward to seeing the seniors.

“They were super excited about being able to cheer them on,” Fertig said. “They love seeing their college gear and their sports.”

As a teacher, the experience of seeing students' progress through the years is a big deal, too, she said.

“It’s fun to see them grow. Most of them still look the same, so it’s fun to see them as grown almost-adults,” she said. “We were just talking about, can you imagine, in a couple years, these kids (in fifth grade) are going to be the ones walking the halls?”

For senior student Hannah Otto, the walk was a trip down memory lane.

Otto plans to major in business at Point University. During the walk, she saw her first grade, third grade, fourth grade and middle school teachers.

“The primary center, the little kids were super, super excited. They’re so small — I always forgot how little they were!” she said. “It was really fun to go back through all of the different buildings and reminisce. It’s crazy to think that you can remember almost exactly where you’re supposed to go through all those school buildings.”

Senior student Megan Boddy, who will attend the University of Dayton after she graduates, ran into her favorite fifth-grade teacher, Brian Zima.

“I’m very excited. I can’t wait to find out what happens when I get to college,” she said. “It will be a new opportunity to follow.”

Mars Area Elementary students hold up signs congratulating graduating seniors during Wednesday's Mars Senior walk. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle 05/25/22
Mars Area School District senior Austin Cote high fives Mars Elementary students during Wednesday's Mars Senior walk. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle 05/25/22
Mars Area School District senior senior Julia Rice high fives Mars Elementary students during Wednesday's Mars Senior walk. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle 05/25/22
Mars seniors Rylan Farnham, left, Olivia Hanlon, and Jenna Coulter pose for a photo during Mars Senior Walk Wednesday. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle 05/25/22
Izzy Cinalli, front, high fives a Mars Area Middle School student with Kaitlyn Pelaia and fellow seniors during the Mars Senior Walk Wednesday. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle 05/25/22