I got to attend the eighth-grade graduation ceremony at Chico Junior High last Friday. A friend of mine was in the graduating class. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Where I come from—Norton, Ohio—and when I graduated from junior high school—1970—we didn’t have a graduation ceremony. We had a last-day-of-the-year assembly in the gymnasium, sitting on brown metal folding chairs placed in rows on the green-and-white tiled gym floor. Awards were presented. My best friend Frank Vargo was given a perfect attendance accolade, but wasn’t there to accept it. He was absent! And we, his knuckleheaded buddies, all shouted that information in unison from our brown metal folding chairs when Principal Richard Dipple called for Frank to come forward and claim his acknowledgment for top-notch attendance. In our 13-year-old minds his absence on this day of recognition was not just ironic; it was pure genius. Then the smart kids and the athletic kids got their time in the spotlight. That was pretty much it, and we boarded the buses that carried us home for the summer.

This graduation ceremony at Chico Junior High was very different. That’s because parents were there and the distinct feeling of moving on to bigger and more challenging things—like high school—hung in the air. The ceremony marked a rite of passage from older goofy kid to young goofy adult. (Hey, we’ve all been there; now we’re just older goofy adults.) School Superintendent Scott Brown was there as was Chico Unified School District Trustee Rick Rees. (Brown, not surprisingly, did not attend the Marsh Junior High ceremony, but I learned that CUSD Trustee Steve O’Bryan and Assistant Superintendent Cindy Kampf did and some school officials there tried to keep them from sitting on the stage.) I can’t speak for the other school graduations, but Chico Junior High’s was pretty cool. The diversity—speeches were delivered in English, Spanish, Hmong and sign language—the talent, the student camaraderie and support from the family and friends (one proud dad blasted an air horn when his son’s name was called) was clearly evident. My son, who’s heading into fifth grade next fall, was so impressed he announced as the ceremony came to a close that he would like to attend Chico Junior High. Of course, we were all caught up in the emotions of the moment and he probably would have pledged his allegiance to Marsh or Bidwell junior highs had we gone to their graduation ceremonies. Hail to you, eighth-grade grads—don’t worry, high school is better than junior high.

The day after the graduation, I joined a few hundred of Coleen Jarvis’ best friends in Laxson Auditorium to say goodbye to the Chico City Councilmember in a memorial that was at turns poignant, funny and profoundly sad. Jarvis’s widespread work—city councilmember, county attorney and university teacher—was evidenced by those who attended, including city staff, city firefighters, folks from the county court system and representatives from the university. Laurel Blankinship, longtime paralegal at Northern California Legal Services, pointed out that Jarvis had the ability to “make you feel like you were her best friend.” At that moment there seemed to be a general agreement, a unified nodding of heads by many of the 700 or so folks in attendance that Blankinship was absolutely correct. People looked at each other as if a profound secret had just been revealed. I know I felt it, and Jarvis and I weren’t even that close. (Journalists have no friends, the saying goes.) Speakers included Mayor Maureen Kirk, sister Kelly Smith (“She hated my Barbies; she hated my little dolls; she was a tomboy”), Councilmember Dan Nguyen-Tan, attorney Andy Holcomb, teacher Mary Flynn—who noted Jarvis’ ability to integrate her progressive leanings with the Catholic teachings. Master of ceremonies (what do you call someone who orchestrates and introduces the speakers at a memorial service?) Loretta Metcalf perhaps said it best when she observed that Coleen Jarvis was more than a feminist, “she was a strong humanist.” Life goes on.