But this wasn’t a Harry Potter convention. It was a deliberate plan to visually represent the goal that is expected for all Walker County students.
“We want every student to stop for a moment today on this first day of school and begin this year with the end in mind,” Mathis said.
Administrators at all Walker County schools dressed in graduation gowns and regalia to send a message of encouragement to older students and a goal for younger students to strive for.
The aim is to help begin conversations among students, parents and teachers to ensure those students will one day wear their own cap and gown at commencement ceremonies, conveying a message that graduating from high school is an expectation.
“Every possibility is here in Walker County. Every child who reports today has the greatest of potential and success in front of them,” Mathis said.
Mike Carruth, chair of the Walker County school board, was one of several board members also dressed in graduation gown.
“I was excited to see all of the smiles on kids’ faces as they walked in the door,” Carruth said.
Students at Cherokee Ridge Elementary were welcomed by the year they will graduate, ranging from 2017 to 2022.
Administrators throughout the system greeted students with handshakes and high-fives as they entered schools to begin another year.
Walker County superintendent of schools Melissa Mathis toured several schools on Friday.
Mathis spoke to students in the new Honors Academy at Ridgeland High School.
“If you want to wear this bling-bling (graduation gown and regalia), you have to earn it,” Mathis told students.
The system has increased graduation rates by 10 percent over the past three years, according to officials.
Wearing the robes sparked conversations of what the different gowns, chords, sashes, medals and hoods stood for.
Principal Mike Culberson even received compliments from employees at a fast-food restaurant on his way to work.
One employee even remarked that she wished that there had been this level of support while she was in school, and that it might have helped her not to drop out of high school, according to Culberson.