Pre-kindergarten and 5th-grade students ready to step up

It's the end of the road for pre-kindergarten and 5th-grade students, but another challenge is coming.

The two groups received their diplomas this week in front of enthusiastic crowds of parents, guardians and Varnett staff.

"I made it," said one 5th grader after a ceremony at the East Campus.

Hundreds of students donned caps and gowns and were celebrated for their hard work and achievement.

Superintendent Annette Cluff congratulated the groups and handed out diplomas to most of the students. She also thanked the parents for their continued support and expressed enthusiasm for the 2010-11 school year.

The 5th graders will move on to middle or junior high school, but the pre-kindergarten students will remain in familiar territory as they prepare for the climb up the ladder.

Graduation by the numbers:

East Campus
Pre-kindergarten: 88
5th grade: 20

Northeast Campus
Pre-kindergarten: 69
5th grade: 21

Southwest Campus
Pre-kindergarten: 143
5th grade: 38

Photo galleries:

East Campus pre-kindergarten students
East Campus 5th-grade students

Northeast Campus pre-kindergarten and 5th-grade students

Southwest kindergarten students
Southwest 5th-grade students

Houston Chronicle photos of pre-kindergarten students from Southwest Campus

Chronicle photos on Ebony Magazine and Jet Magazine Facebook page

Reader comments from the Houston Chronicle photo gallery:

"I am a native Baltimorian and have spent time in Houston recently. I have enjoyed reading the Chronicle and I was very inspired by this school and these children. I hope the Chronicle continues to show the positive side of childhood! These kids look amazingly happy and from what I know about this particular school system, they are sent to the next level of education with the best possible foundation and a desire to succeed."

"This child and her classmate (shown in one picture) successfully navigated the very new, and sometimes scary, world away from their parents. They all learned new and exciting things - this year they learned their colors and shapes, but in the future they will be teachers, doctors, business men and women and probably things we can't even imagine now. Congratulations to all of them and may they all go on to achieve their greatest hopes and dreams."

"I see a little one who one day will be-
Whatever it is that she decides to be."