For many Liberty County students, Thursday afternoon bells rang out classwork, standardized tests and uniforms — at least until August.
At Button Gwinnett Elementary school, jittery students were eager to leave campus as they considered the playground liberation, summer camp adventures and pool trips that will dot their next few months.
Like many other parents, Jackie Goodwin was picking up her daughter, third-grader Taleiyah Goodwin, early Thursday.
In unison, both said they felt “awesome and excited” about the start of summer, which holds trips to Six Flags, Disney World and “summer camp at Grandma and Poppa’s house.”
Like many students, Taleiyah said her class celebrated with an ice cream party and some Gummy Bears.
Fifth-grade teacher Jung Neiman said her students had a range of emotions as they look toward middle school.
“This week you could tell they were excited, and there are a lot of nerves in there because they’re going to middle school,” Neiman said.
At dismissal, teachers and administrators cheered as they waved students off. Some chanted “move that bus,” while others wiped away tears.
Emotions also were mixed Bradwell Institute, especially for junior Isaiah Alexis.
“I’m quite perplexed at how fast this school year went by. I just walked in recently saying, ‘Wow — junior year …,’” he said. “I made so many good friends, it’s a bittersweet moment because so many seniors are leaving and some of my best friends are leaving, too.”
Alexis, who recently was promoted to drum major in the school’s marching band, said he will spend his summer both working at a fast food restaurant and honing his skills at band camp.
He also plans to visit a couple of college campuses in New York, where he is originally from and hopes to return to major in acting.
Emma Quintas also bid goodbye to her junior year, but she has almost opposite summer plans.
“This is my third summer of high school not moving,” Quintas said. “This is my third school, and I’m a junior — and I went to three middle schools, also.”
Quintas said her family will spend time with her father, an Army colonel, before he deploys, and she will take a couple of trips.
She plans to fill her downtime at the beach and on the tennis court.
Sophomore Dejah Grant also said she is excited.
“I can’t wait to get out of this sophomore year and start my junior year …,” she said. “This school year was really fun for me, but I’m just ready to move on.”
Instead of returning to Bradwell, Grant plans to complete online American high school courses from her new home in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where her mother works as a logistics contractor.
The students agreed their classmates have similar experiences with frequent moves and varying levels of academic and professional involvement over summer.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 48.8 percent of youth between the ages of 16-24 were employed during last July, the month when youth labor typically peaks. But that number was a decrease from 2006, when the rate was 59.2 percent, and 2001, when the rate was 63.3 percent.
Sophomore Devyn Lewis plans to work part time at a grocery before he attends the Georgia Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar on June 1-3. He was the sole representative tapped from Bradwell.
“You’ll go through situations, you’ll develop leadership skills, expound on decision-making and leadership skills and what-not,” he said. “Which, you know, will probably be beneficial to me, because I can bring it back and apply it in my life.”
Lewis said leaving 10th grade is bittersweet because he will trade his JROTC time for Advanced Placement classes.
“I had some good times this year. I’m going to miss them, and some of the experiences I had my sophomore year were kind of enriching,” Lewis said. “Particularly, JROTC drill team … We go out every Saturday, we go to rifle schools and we compete, and being Bradwell, we win. You bond with your squad mates.”