By Marjorie Nesin
---- — At eighth grade graduation ceremonies, some kids feel so special, they could swear they are the only 13-year-old in the room.
For Eastern Point Day School’s sole eighth-grader this year, that was actually the case.
“It was nice. It was a good time,” eighth-grader Mark Turner said of his Wednesday evening graduation ceremony.
Mark was thankful that so many people, including his schoolmates from younger grades, his family, teachers and mentors had come to the graduation ceremony that yielded just one eighth-grade graduate.
Eastern Point Day School had about 33 students this year, but only one eighth-grader. The larger part of the school’s students are concentrated in the younger grades.
Still, the school combines grade levels and Mark took classes with students younger than him, receiving extra challenges from teachers. He will attend St. John’s Prep in Danvers next year, and says he’s looking forward to studying computer science and playing golf and baseball in high school. Yet while he is excited about upcoming new experiences, he also adored his small school by the ocean.
“I was there for nine years and it was great. You could have more one on one time with the teachers, and there was a lot of off campus learning,” Marks said, listing some of his favorite trips to places like the Cape Ann Museum, an adventure camp and Boston’s Museum of Science.
Mark’s mom, Kathi Turner, who volunteers at the school as a business manager and trustee, said in light of the school’s near closing in 2004 she is thrilled to see the school still open and graduating students. Turner and a group of parents grouped together and bought the then-Catholic St. Mel’s school, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, and later renamed it. The parents could not bear to watch the school close.
Turner liked that the close knit environment at the school alleviates social pressures and encourages individuality.
“We kept saying we’re going to get this school going and we’re going to keep it open,” Turner said. “We’re just trying to keep it alive so it’s still an option for families in Gloucester.”
At the graduation Wednesday night, Mark’s friend, Zachary Magee, opened the ceremony with a song played on his violin, and Mark gave a speech and received awards. Balloons decorated the yard, a disc jockey cranked the music and a potluck dinner fed the crowd.
“It was quite the party,” Turner said.
The school’s headmaster, Robert Teel, who granted Mark his diploma and closed with some remarks, called Mark an exemplary student at the school. Teel said he knew Mark as a kid who looked out for the younger students, gave everything a best effort and always practiced respect as a value.
“He’s smart but just as important as that, he’s just a wonderful human being,” Teel said. “He’s just a great kid, very empathetic, very humble, and yet outgoing and funny. As an eighth-grader he was a model in many ways of what we expect from each other.”
Though Teel estimated that the school’s enrollment is 50 percent higher than it was two years ago, he said that, as of now, no students have enrolled at the eighth grade level for next year.
Mark’s brother James graduated the school last year in an eighth grade class of two. His sister, who has attended the school since pre-kindergarten, will enter seventh grade this fall.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.