TOP: Sawyer Parrow gets ready to board the bus after his first day of kindergarten. ABOVE: MHS senior Brooke Caragher is pictured in class on her last first day school. (Photos by Kaylee Sullivan)

Senior Brooke Caragher followed her fellow classmates out of the Milton High School auditorium last Wednesday, Aug. 30 to a tunnel of high-fives from faculty and staff. Left, right, left, she motioned, as well-wishes for success abounded on her last first day of school.

“It was kind of bittersweet,” Caragher said. “I’ve been with the same people for the last 13 years.”

Down the road at Milton Elementary School, kindergartner Sawyer Parrow sat on the floor of his new classroom. In the first reading circle of the year, he was surrounded by a group of 18 new friends — many of whom he’ll spend the next 13 years with.

Caragher had a slice of advice for the newcomer.

“Make friends and don’t be afraid to ask questions,” she said. “And talk to new people, because those people are gonna be your friends forever.”

Caragher took a seat in her first Advanced Placement biology class of the year last Wednesday. The comforting, familiar faces were an added bonus as teacher Richard Scharf prefaced the syllabus with fair warning: AP Bio is a lot of work.

The material was a stark contrast to what Sawyer was experiencing over on Herrick Avenue.

Sawyer Parrow ate lunch in the Milton Elementary School cafeteria last week. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

Frantically listening to Haley Baker, their new teacher, Sawyer and his classmates blasted off different bathroom rules: Knock on the door, flush the toilet, wash your hands. The world of ecology, evolution and cellular biology is oceans away.

For now, Sawyer’s spending his time socializing and learning the basics of being a kid. When he arrived home last week, after riding with his bus driver-friend Larry, he excitedly recounted his day. The lunchroom was his biggest talking point, his mom Jennifer Ploof said.

Sawyer listens as his teacher reads a book to the class. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

There, he waited in line for his meal — turkey sandwich, carrots and apple juice. He exchanged a few words his new classmates, as well as faculty from his time in the district’s early education program, or preschool.

Hands raised above his head, he jumped up and down with sheer enthusiasm. It was his first day of elementary school, and the beginning of his formal education in Milton.

Upon returning to class, Ms. Baker read “Tops and Bottoms” by Janet Stevens. The picture book, rooted in American slave tales, would have been a welcome reprieve for Caragher, who had just acquired a 700-plus-page biology textbook.

Ploof said Sawyer came home excited and ready to return the next day, especially for his favorite part of the day: recess.

His success was partly due to a kindergarten orientation he attended 24 hours prior, his mom said. Exceptionally nervous, Sawyer went into the day unsure if he would know anyone. Rest assured, he did, and he learned the lay of land, too.

Caragher, front right, sits with friends Zack Popke, Haley Raftery and Jordan Bean in Richard Scharf’s class. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

Ploof joked she was likely more nervous than Sawyer. Having a child already go through kindergarten, Ploof said she’d had some practice. Though she was apprehensive to see Sawyer go, she didn’t feel the sadness she did the first time around. With one more kid yet to reach kindergarten, she’s got another trial run under her belt.

Also aiding students in transition was Caragher. Last Tuesday, Aug. 29, she volunteered at MHS’ freshman orientation, showing the new students around and lending some tricks of the trade.

The senior soccer player, who also takes part in Interact, student council, National Honor Society and one for mathematics, stressed the importance of being “present.”

As she packed up her backpack — no flower, superhero and cartoon styles here — she headed off to AP U.S. government, lugging her weighty book in tow. AP literature was yet to come.

Brooke Caragher writes her name in her AP Bio textbook. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

While Sawyer enjoyed lunchtime with a cafeteria full of new potential friends, Caragher made a plug for her newfound senior privileges, which allow her and friends to set up hammocks and eat outside.

No matter if a student is in kindergarten or grade 12, the first day of school reminds parents their babies are growing up.

“It’s like a bunch of emotions mixed together. You’re sad that they’re going but you’re happy, [too],” Ploof said. “Every parent feels that, so you have to be happy for them. It’s hard to watch them go.” 

Ploof said the quality teachers in Milton reassure her Sawyer is in good hands. MHS teacher Pete Wyndorf echoed this during a welcome ceremony at MHS, where all four grades listened as he described education as a tangible subject Milton educators are devoted to bringing their students.

Wyndorf told the crowd of students they have one job: Give everything. If they do, the positive chant Wyndorf sang with strong conviction would ring true.

“I will succeed,” Wyndorf preached through the microphone.

“I will succeed!” the pack of students echoed.