“Time flies,” mused McKinney Boyd High School senior Braylon Cyrus, with a shake of his head as he rested his arms against the top of a bookshelf in the library at Reuben Johnson Elementary.
“It’s a lot smaller than what I remember,” he said with a smile, gazing across rows of shelves and toward the group of 30 or so high school seniors chatting at tables or mingling in small clusters at the other end of the room.
Sprinkled among them were current RJE teachers and administrators as well as former staff who had returned for the occasion. There were hugs—and a few happy tears—as teachers reunited with students who were decidedly taller than when they last crossed paths.
It was the annual Senior Breakfast, a tradition that RJE adopted from Wolford Elementary about five years ago and one that was celebrated by 17 other elementary campuses across McKinney ISD on Friday, May 25.
The graduating seniors/former RJE students who responded to the breakfast invitation drove over mostly from McKinney High School to visit one more time the school where their academic careers began—to revisit the place where it all started before embarking on the next leg of their journey.
Seniors thumbed through yearbooks as they shared breakfast in the library, spinning the books around for others to see, pointing out photos from their elementary years.
“Don’t take a picture of that!” said one senior with a laugh as she covered up her kindergarten yearbook photo.
MISD Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Student Services Suzy Woodard returned to the campus where she had served as principal for eight years and circulated through the room greeting seniors whom she hadn’t seen since they were fifth-graders.
Current RJE Principal Michelle Baumann was there, of course, and P.E. Coach Lisa Stout—the one teacher that all of the reunited RJE alumni had in common from their time at the school. After breakfast, Stout led the seniors to the main stairwell for a group picture and then to the gym where they waited while MHS seniors Gabe Garcia and Katie Glenn headed to the broadcast room to take a guest appearance on the morning video announcements.
Gabe, an alumnus of the RJE morning announcement crew, found the now-Lilliputian scale of his former school amusing. “It’s just super weird because I’m like 6’ 2” now, and these kids are about [one-third] my size. I’m like a giant, but it’s fine. It’s cute,” he said with a laugh.
After announcements, the current RJE student body poured out of their rooms and lined the halls as Lexi Vera from MHS led her fellow seniors on one more walk through the school in a parade celebrated with ear-piercing cheers and a seemingly endless chain of high fives.
Baumann smiled, looking on as the line of seniors wound past. “I love this event. I especially remember my first year as principal when those students that I taught in fourth grade were then graduating seniors,” she said. “I have great pictures, good memories, and I’m glad that we’re able to provide this opportunity for our students and families. And, I love seeing so many former staff members come back. I think it speaks to the family atmosphere that we have here at RJE.”
Back in the gym, Stout brought out the highly-anticipated parachute and called out instructions as members of the 2018 graduating class were transported back to fifth grade P.E., lofting the chute into the air, running underneath it and back to their places, ducking inside and pulling it tightly around them and then finally stepping out and releasing the chute as they watched it sink slowly back to the gym floor with poignant finality.
Immediately Stout ordered them to the scooters, and they were soon zipping across the gym on their bellies riding four-wheeled squares of plastic.
Stout formed them into loose lines, turned up the P.A., and they revisited the choreographed wackiness of their old P.E. dance songs.
They squared off at half-court for a dance contest with the third grade P.E. class.
They sang the old RJE school song.
And, it was all just…fun. A chance to be a kid again for a few minutes before they officially enter the world of adulthood.
The music ended, and Stout called them to her in the center of the gym, all hands in. She gazed at the familiar faces surrounding her—now at eye level—one more time. “Remember, once a Jaguar, always a Jaguar!” she told them with a catch in her voice.
And, with a final, heartfelt shout of, “Jaguars!” the RJE 2018 Senior Breakfast concluded.
For Stout, the event is always an emotional experience.
“I absolutely love it,” she said. “These kids, they may be big, but I remember their ‘little’ faces. My son is one of them this year, so that made it even more special. And, for them to be able to have the interaction with our current students so that they can see where they are going to go in just a few years—it’s awesome. I’ve been here for 18 years, so I had these kids from kindergarten to fifth grade. The Senior Breakfast is one of my favorite days of the year!”
Lexi Vera walked toward the RJE gym doors for what was likely the final time as an MISD student. “It’s a really cool experience to come back right before I leave for college. It’s like a big reminder of what my childhood was,” she said with a smile.
“I loved starting at this school. I wouldn’t want to start anywhere else.”
And, the thing about a good start is that it doesn’t stay at the start.
You carry it with you.
And, at some point along the way, it will probably carry you.