Carly Photo

Carly Neal poses on the sign at Pulaski Elementary School after her fifth-grade "drive-thru" graduation.

Six years ago, she held her mommy’s hand and walked into Pulaski Elementary School for her first day of kindergarten.

We worried about how our little Caroline would do that first year. She had never gone to daycare or pre-school — it had been just us three, along with her two big brothers. She didn’t have a lot of experience with other kids her age— or other people, in general.

But on that first day, she made several friends and her metamorphosis from our precious baby to social butterfly began.

In that six-year span, there have been cheerleading, chorus and various awards ceremonies — each event holding a precious memory not only for us as parents, but for Carly and her buddies as well. The father-daughter dances at PES were truly one of the highlights of the school year for this proud daddy.

In six years, Carly grew into a bright, sweet young lady. On Tuesday, she officially said goodbye to Pulaski Elementary with a unique drive-thru graduation.

And there were tears.

It’s odd to think I won’t have a child at PES when the 2020-21 school year begins. My son, Chase, was a Mustang — and just a few years after he moved on, Carly began her elementary school journey there. After having a child at PES for most of the last 15 years or so, it’s sad to think I won’t have a reason to go there again.

At one time, my oldest daughter, Rachel, taught at PES with Carly right down the hall and two of my granddaughters — two of Rachel’s four kiddos — there as well.

It’s truly been a family affair.

And I will miss it.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate everyone who has made my little girl feel so loved over the past six years.

From front-office staff to teachers, right up to principal Angela Wilson, Pulaski Elementary School has been a delight.

It’s a little sad that the departing fifth-graders couldn’t gather with their friends for a “traditional” graduation send-off.

But this graduation was special. My wife, Tricia, decorated our car — embarrassing our child in the process — and we drove through, picked up Carly’s diploma and took pictures. It was a ceremony we won’t likely forget.

Pulaski County Schools made sure that its milestone kids — the kindergartners, fifth-graders, eighth-graders and seniors — were not forgotten in the face of this life-altering pandemic.

But that’s not surprising at all. 

We’re fortunate in this community to have educators so loving and caring. I’ve seen it first-hand in Pulaski County Schools and I’ve seen it at Somerset Independent. I have never had a child attend Science Hill, but friends say the same thing about the faculty there.

They’re the reason it always made me so darned mad to hear people disparage public educators — because they deserve our respect and our admiration.

I can assure you they have mine.

Thank you Pulaski Elementary School, for being so good to my little girl. Thank you PES teachers for helping her learn and grow.

And Northern Middle School — we are on our way!

JEFF NEAL is the Editor of the Commonwealth Journal. Reach him at Follow him on Twitter at @jnealCJ.

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