Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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They were the guinea pigs, the pioneers. They experienced more of the school district restructuring than any other class. They also had the most to lose if the whole thing resulted in disaster.

I’m talking about the current eighth-graders of Cambridge Public Schools, whose lives for the past three years have fine-tuned the Innovation Agenda.

From the very beginning, in fall of 2012, it was all new and unsettling for these kids. They said goodbye to friends who decamped to private or charter schools. They were required to pilot programs, test curricula and adjust to countless tweaks of rules. They became one among 100, rather than one among 25 or 50, adding their homework to a three-inch stack on teachers’ desks. They had to maneuver tight, ill-fitting spaces while navigating around peer cliques that seemed larger and louder than their parts. They felt insecure with so much change so fast, but took pride in getting to choose mascots and establish student governments. And with their numbers suddenly larger, they had their ears opened by the wonderful sound they could create in band, orchestra and chorus and in the crowds who cheered at their sports competitions.

Not only that – they made a faster transition to young adulthood than their older friends and siblings. They discovered they were even more capable than their parents of keeping track of six-day schedules, color-coded cohorts and “specials” versus “electives.” At the tender age of 12, they acclimated quickly to learning among a larger and more diverse group of peers than they had ever known. As time went by, they cycled through slang and style trends that reflected a larger collective experience.

So after three years of the Innovation Agenda, toughing out the rough bits, rising to the challenges, this year’s eighth-graders – the most juggled and jostled, tried and tested class in this town’s recent history – are graduating. And they plan to celebrate with trips and dances and more.

Cambridge’s citizens and businesses will want to ensure that the final days of middle school for these adventurous students will be ones they someday brag about. When it comes down to it, after all the committee meetings and roundtables and hand-wringing and pats on the back and consultants and community partners and heated words thrown around by the adults involved, in the end these kids proved they were the magnificent ones who pulled it all off.

So come on, Cambridge – support your local eighth-graders! We all remember what it was like to be in middle school (and how sweet it was to leave it behind).

Support your local eighth-graders

Below is a list of the June field trips, by school, planned by teachers, school administrators and parents for Cambridge Public School eighth-graders, the students who helped shape the Innovation Agenda.

Many of these schools are still fundraising for their end-of-year activities. In some cases, last-minute donations may pay for at-the-door museum entrance fees, food expenses, little extras, and emergency money or even pay off loans made by thoughtful community members so tickets could be secured. The schools offering overnight trips are also raising funds to pay for day trips for students who will not be traveling out of the area. (There are myriad reasons why some Cambridge families do not choose to send their children on overnight school trips, even when fees can be covered. Each school does what it can to accommodate families’ varying needs.)

The nonprofit organizations named at the end of each listing were set up to receive donations from the greater community. Funds from their coffers pay for the upper schools’ events and educational extras and help cover the field trip fees of families who aren’t able to contribute.


Two-night trip to New York City, with a Spanish-speaking guide taking students around town to sights and activities related to Latino culture.

For information and to donate: Friends of Amigos, 15 Upton St., Cambridge MA 02139

Cambridge Street Upper School
One-night trip to New York City, including visits to the 9/11 Memorial and the Jacob Lawrence “Migrations” exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art and seeing “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” on Broadway. Smaller groups will pursue themed itineraries of “Animals Dead & Alive,” Classic New York,” “History of New York City Basketball” and “Escape from Manhattan.”

For information and to donate:
bullet-gray-small csus8.org
bullet-gray-small facebook.com/CSUS.8th.Grade.Trip
bullet-gray-small CSUS Parent Caregiver Organization, 850 Cambridge St., Cambridge MA 20141


Putnam Avenue Upper School
Two-night trip to Hershey, Pa., including visits to Amish Country, Strasburg Rail Road and Hershey Park, and a dinner/dance cruise on Boston Harbor.

For information and to donate:
bullet-gray-small putnamavefamily.org
bullet-gray-small Putnam Avenue Family Association, 158 Spring St., Cambridge MA 02141


Rindge Avenue Upper School
Three-night trip to Washington, D.C., including touring, museums, a visit with a member of Congress or a senator, going to a baseball game, and a dinner/dance cruise on the Potomac River.

For information and to donate:
bullet-gray-small firstgiving.com/400994
bullet-gray-small Families of Rindge Avenue Upper Campus, 70 Rindge Ave., Cambridge MA 02140


Vassal Lane Upper School
Day trip to Six Flags New England and an eighth-grade celebration dance.

For information and to donate:
bullet-gray-small friendsofvlus.org
bullet-gray-small Friends of Vassal Lane Upper School, 197 Vassal Lane, Cambridge MA 02138

Monica Velgos is a freelance writer and parent of a Cambridge Street Upper School eighth-grader.