Mock graduation inspires Gearity students

Third-graders entering the auditorium.

Katrina Hicks, principal at Gearity Professional Development School, has big plans for her students. “Graduating from high school is an automatic expectation,” she said. “And going to college should be, too. I want that to be ingrained in them from a young age.”

She has brought the idea of college to her students, over the past three years, with a mock college graduation ceremony.

Third- through fifth-graders participated in a full-blown commencement at John Carroll University (JCU), complete with speeches, diplomas, and caps and gowns, on Oct. 6.

The third-grade students represented the Ohio University Class of 2030, fourth-graders were the Class of 2029 from John Carroll University, and fifth-graders were the Class of 2028 from The Ohio State University.

The evening started with a processional of students, clad in black and gold caps and gowns, filing into the Kulas Auditorium in front of a packed house of family members and district leaders.

Pamela Mason, an associate dean at JCU, addressed the crowd. Looking into the future, she told the students, “I hope you will be reminded of this very happy moment when you sit in [another] auditorium on your own future campuses and are recognized as college graduates.”

Following Mason’s welcome, it was the students’ turn to talk. Students in the three grades had written speeches as part of a language arts lesson. Teachers selected the best to be read aloud at the ceremony.

Third-grader Dylan Lawson imagined himself on the verge of becoming a lawyer. “I’ve always been known to get my point across in any debate or conversation,” he proclaimed to many laughs.

Fourth-grader Matayis Mouncey had a pragmatic approach to his career. “I studied sports at college so that after my professional soccer career is over, I can still help young people as a sports psychologist.”

Kira Williams planned to enroll in the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine to become a pediatrician. Driven by a desire to “help little kids feel better so they can have a good childhood,” she ended her speech with “I think it’s important that we take care of each other and this is one way I can make a difference in the world.”

The student speeches concluded with fifth-grader Nicholas Square. He spoke of all he’d learned from his family, of his nervous excitement for the future, and of his plans to be an engineer or scientist.

Many parents praised the mock graduation. ShaRan Marshall said, “It’s great for our kids to know that they will go on and succeed and graduate.” Kirsti Mouncey agreed: “What an amazing community. People coming together, supporting our kids, seeing their potential.”

Following the speeches, each child walked across the stage to receive a diploma and a lanyard that read “College is not just the dream. It is the plan.”

In her closing remarks, Hicks reiterated that her students’ college educations start today. “I hope this simple experience will ignite a desire and passion that will carry you throughout your lives," she said. "I need you to work as hard as you can. And then I need you work a little bit harder.”

Hicks predicted they would be engaged in areas of study that have yet to be developed, and jobs that don’t exist yet. She closed the evening saying to her students, “I need you to grow up to be our future.” To their parents, she said, “Their future starts right now. In 12, 13, 14 years, these beautiful little faces will be the faces of not only their futures, but of ours.”

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, is a former district teacher and a freelance journalist under contract with the CH-UH City School District. A longer version of this story appeared at


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Volume 9, Issue 12, Posted 5:26 PM, 12.01.2016