Thursday, May 18, 2017

Withrow High School 2017 Bridgewalk: Tradition With Fun on the Side

The Withrow Senior Class Bridge Walk on May 18, 2017, was a throwback to Withrow commencement history, but it was also the settling-in of a fun new tradition. Up until 13 years ago, graduating seniors would cross the bridge, walk east on Madison Rd., then head to the school stadium for the graduation ceremony. When the school moved the annual commencement to an indoor site, students lost their chance to cross the bridge one last time. 

The Bridge Walk brings back that lost tradition as a separate graduation event. It gives seniors an opportunity to walk the bridge, party with fellow students, and socialize with friends and family. The walk takes place a few weeks before graduation, so seniors get a chance to wear their caps and gowns more than once. 

I attended the 2017 Bridge Walk as a Class of 70 school alumnus. I snapped a ton of photos and video footage and marveled at how the campus was pretty much the same as it was when I was a teen. The tower was still impressive. Madison Rd was still busy. Despite the vandalism earlier this year, Withrow is still the most beautiful high school campus in the city of Cincinnati and the of state of Ohio. 

A few things have changed 

Withrow is a school of color 

Back in the early 70s, Withrow was more white than black. There were no Asians, Latinos, or other ethnicities and classes were highly segregated. Despite sitting in the middle of Hyde Park, the color dynamic flipped a while back. It is now a proud school of color. 

The Bridge Walk was more fun than formal

As I snapped photos or video of seniors exiting the bridge to head down Madison Rd., I noticed how they laughed, held hands, paused for photo ops, and chatted on their cells. Despite years of standardized test that tried to force them all into the same mold, they did their own thing. There's nothing wrong with that. 

They sported school colors with pride

Seniors wore robes in Withrow's signature black and orange color scheme. They sat at tables decked out in black and orange. Friends and family wore orange tees (and orange hair.) Orange canopies provided shade.

They celebrated!

Seniors tugged on black and orange balloons, carried flowers, and ate burgers hot off the grill. Withrow High Class of 88 Alumnus, D J Stank, kept the mood light and fun with a party-music backdrop. Each student flaunted a celebratory spirit. 

The excitement of a new tradition

The 2017 Bridge Walk celebration was so energetic, it made me rethink my 1970 class march across the bridge. Our walk was beautiful. It was also a somber silent, color-neutral trek with men in all-black robes and ladies in all-white. 

We marched quietly. Our final destination was a mind-numbing ceremony that began with Smitty's big Band playing "Pomp and Circumstance." We remained quiet until it was our turn to stand, receive our walking papers, flip our tassels, and go home. It was impressive but boring by comparison.

No party. No Music. No DJ Stank!

I sat on the sidewalk as I captured video of Withrow seniors crossing the bridge and I couldn't stop smiling. I know they've done the new Bridge Walk at least once before, so this is not a one-time whim. It's the continuation of a new Withrow tradition and I was glad to be sitting right in the middle of it. 

Carol George-Rucker
Withrow High School Class 0f 1970

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