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Brainerd Seniors wait on the bus prior to their entrance to Orchard Knob Elementary School. The 2016 graduating class of Brainerd High School walked through the halls of Orchard Knob Elementary in their caps and gowns, as a representation of the "vision" for where the elementary students will one day be.

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Graduation glory: Brainerd seniors show younger students the rewards of work

You have every opportunity out there waiting for you.

Screams echoed down the hall of Orchard Knob Elementary School as students cheered for their role models, the graduating senior class of Brainerd High School.

The seniors, who will walk across the graduation stage today, ran down the halls of the elementary school in their bright red caps and gowns Friday, showing the younger students how hard work pays off.

"It's cool to come see the children's faces," said Jamey Mitchell, a graduating senior at Brainerd who attended Orchard Knob Elementary. "These kids want to be us."

Mitchell plans to attend Monterey Peninsula College in California to play football and study music and business. He said ever since he started elementary school he knew he was going to graduate high school.

"It wasn't always easy," he said. "But I did it."

Claps, shouts and chants continued as the seniors made their way to the school's gym and sat in chairs in front of the fourth and fifth-grade students, who neatly sat in rows on the floor paying close attention to the program.

Sheryl Randolph, director of Hamilton County's iZone, told the younger students how they, too, can be graduating seniors one day.

"Who's going to graduate?" Randolph enthusiastically asked the elementary students. Every hand shot into the air.

Brainerd Principal Uras Agee congratulated the high school's 120 graduates — 80 percent of the senior class.

Agee told the elementary students many of this year's graduates were involved in some sort of school activity like sports, clubs and student government.

"When you go to middle school and high school, I'd encourage you to get involved in your school," Agee said.

Graduating senior Christian Sinclair stood at a podium and told the younger students to listen to their parents and teachers, and his classmates Alkessa Jone-White and Dynesha Tucker encouraged the kids to keep working hard.

Orchard Knob Elementary School Principal LaFrederick Thirkill told the graduates this is only the beginning of the things they will accomplish.

"You have every opportunity out there waiting for you," he said. "Walk tall."

Ma'Kayla Marsh, a fourth-grader at Orchard Knob, said she was inspired by the celebration.

"I think I'll be one of them someday," she said, pointing to the seniors.

Her classmate, Rachel Perez, agreed.

"I really liked their hats," Perez said. "I want to be them."

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at 423-757-6592 or kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com. Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.

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