Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

8th-Grade Grads Make Rite to Remember

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

8th-Grade Grads Make Rite to Remember

Article excerpt

THE OCCASION definitely called for a new outfit: a black skirt and beige sweater picked expressly for the night.

And one could hardly do without the 40-foot limousine, a gleaming white double-axle Lincoln Town Car with two television sets and a killer stereo.

There were the parties, the restaurant, more fuss, more expense. But after all, this was the night of a lifetime for Laura Grzenia, a moment whose like she'll see only once.

It was her 8th-grade graduation.

At a time that moving from 8th to 9th grade for many kids is just one more step in a long journey that may include four more years of secondary school, four years of college and perhaps four more of graduate or professional school, 8th-grade graduation certainly isn't the educational milestone it once was.

But it does seem to have acquired a growing significance as a sort of adolescent rite of passage. For sure, it's become a dandy excuse for a big to-do.

And one that some educators are looking askance at as another misguided push to make kids grow up too fast.

Try persuading the kids of that.

"It's like a new beginning for us," said Laura, 13, who graduated June 1 from Bridgeport Catholic Academy in Chicago. "In a way, it's like we're maturing and becoming young adults."

A mere cake or a quiet family dinner no longer suffices for many 8th graders, as more and more of them request - and receive - VIP treatment for graduation.

"It was unheard of five or 10 years ago," said Barb Simkus, president of the Illinois Limousine Association, when asked about limousine service for 8th graders. But now, Simkus said, "we do get a lot of calls for it."

Laura's limousine ride, which she will share with her friends, was one of 10 rentals booked for 8th-grade graduations at Mr. Benny's A Hollywood Dream Limousines in Brookfield, said Jacquie LasCola, the manager.

To those who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon, it may seem an extravagance, as the young initiates cast off the trappings of elementary school and embrace things grown-up and sophisticated.

But the parents interviewed who pay for it shrug off any suggestion that they might be going a little overboard.

"It's only $20 a kid," said Laura's mother, Patti Grzenia, when asked about the cost of the limousine. …

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