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GROTON — The middle school grades, five to eight, to many people often seem neither fish nor fowl.

Are the students still elementary schoolers or are they junior high schoolers?

The eighth grade students of Groton-Dunstable Middle School who graduated last week managed to find their own path and emerged not only prepared for the next phase of their education, but as a close-knit circle of friends.

“I was the new girl when I came to this school in the sixth-grade and the kids in this class really accepted me right from the start and have been very kind ever since,” professed Groton resident Cassandra Dinkel.

“Our greatest asset is that we’re really nice and very respectful,” said student council representative Jocelyn Byron-Kelly of Groton. “All of us are really friendly and because of that, I don’t think it will be very tough to go on from here to high school.”

“We’re overall more social,” said fellow council member Cameron Finnell, adding that there had been few instances of bullying or name-calling among class members.

“This class was a really fun, accepting group of kids,” agreed Middle School Assistant Principal Mark Branco. “I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ll remember about them. During our trip to Washington, D.C., they showed their true colors and demonstrated that they were really good and mature kids who were ready to move on.”

“They are just wonderful students,” said Principal Beth Raucci. “We had a great afternoon (prior to the graduation) celebrating with them as a class and we are all looking forward to (the June 15) ceremony.”

The 244 graduates gathered before a standing-room-only crowd of family and friends on the evening of June 15 in the Middle School’s performing arts center to receive their diplomas and congratulations from school Superintendent Alan Genovese, who also offered some brief remarks.

“As you go on to high school and the journey of life, make a difference with everyone you meet, with everyone you touch,” said Genovese. “By making a difference in your life and in the lives of others, you help to make the world a better place.”

Lacking traditional caps and gowns, the graduates filed to the front of the arts center before proud parents and countless whirring cameras to begin the formal portion of the ceremony with a rendition of the national anthem by Hannah Mattison.

Following the anthem, a chorus of class members sang a pair of songs — “Flying Free” and “100 Years” — before graduate Kate Pallis delivered a farewell address to her classmates.

Pallis called the students’ middle-school years “the end of an exciting journey” in which they learned confidence and respect for others. Those traits came to the fore on the class trip to Washington.

Pallis ended her remarks with a plea for her classmates to show thanks to their parents for their support over the years and led a round of applause herself.

Parent and former School Committee candidate Paul Fitzgerald appreciated the sentiment and said that he had given his son some advice of his own prior to last week’s commencement.

“As I told Kevin earlier this evening, graduation represents both an end and a new beginning,” Fitzgerald said. “The next four years of high school are going to be so important, with the completion of middle school being the end of only one phase in his life.”

One phase, certainly, but meaningful nonetheless to those who took part in it.

“I made a lot of amazing friends in this school and love every one of them,” declared graduate Katelyn Murphy of Groton. “They’re the greatest group of people I ever met.”

“I think that our class is the best that has ever been so far, because we’re so open to everyone,” said a tearful Rachelle Greco, also of Groton. “I’ll really miss it.”

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