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Col. Michael Greenberg, Belvoir Garrison commander, often challenged students to stay fit and has become known for coaxing students into doing 10 push-ups with him. Even on video, he issued the challenge, and dropped and shared a final moment of fitness with the sixth-grade class, as they bridged to their futures.

The rapid shutdown of Virginia in March, in response to the pandemic, hit all sectors of society, but school children were deprived of closure offered by typical end-of-school year activities. Fort Belvoir Upper School turned an annual ceremony into a more personal farewell, last week, as each of its sixth-grade classes held a bridging ceremony to mark the milestone of moving on to middle school.

Lee Duhe’s class members gathered on Zoom to see recordings of leaders, principals and teachers wishing them well in their journeys ahead. Jamey Chianetta, Upper School principal, looked back on spring’s challenges with a sense of hope.

“We welcome our sixth grade bridging class of 2020, and that we’ve almost completed our most unique year: no exit testing, and no way to have the ceremony and walk over that bridge,” Chianetta said. “Opportunities over the spring have made us all more resilient. We now know ways to connect in virtual ways we might not have known about, otherwise. As you leave, and charge forward into secondary education, please keep in mind that you have seven years of elementary school teachers, coaches and administrators cheering you on.”

Commander continues to challenge

Col. Michael Greenberg, Garrison commander, spoke to the students about change, and the future.

“You’ve adapted to the new normal, with the help of your parents and teachers,” Greenberg said. “Your curiosity and teamwork is so important to reach the height of your capability. Take care of each other. You’ve gained the perseverance to overcome almost anything. Use your parents and teachers for their knowledge, and have confidence in yourself. Together, you can do almost anything.”

‘You’re military children’

Melissa Zimmerman, a sixth-grade teacher, advised the students to make the most of their experiences.

“Some of you had said you’re nervous, but that’s okay, that’s normal. You’re military children. You’re going to meet other people who are just as nervous and confused as you, and it’s okay. Allow yourself to breathe and get used to it,” Zimmerman said, and then offered a comforting tactic for seventh grade. “When you get your schedules, walk the halls with your schedule before the first day, so you know where to go.”

The ceremony also honors academic excellence and achievement.

“ … I want to say how proud we are of each and every one of you, and you have a place in my heart,” Duhe’ said.

After some recorded farewells from other sixth-grade teachers, many who proudly proclaimed “you are now seventh graders,” Duhe’ thanked parents.

“Teaching is a partnership with parents, and we couldn’t have done it without you, especially in the last three months, and in helping to make sure they were online when they were supposed to be. You have been a gift to us, and to Fort Belvoir,” she said.

With that, the classmates said their goodbyes to each other, giving them a chance to cross that virtual bridge, and close the school year.