Amid fanfare and a chorus of cheers from the students of Malvern Elementary, more than 65 senior adults disembarked from two McKinney ISD school buses on a recent Thursday morning and high-fived their way through a sea of kids as they moved down the school’s main hallway and into the cafeteria.
There, they were greeted by MISD Supt. Dr. Rick McDaniel, Malvern Principal Rhonda Gilliam, Board of Trustees members Amy Dankel, Stephanie O’Dell and Maria McKinzie and a host of student ambassadors.
It was time again for the district’s Senior Tour, the highly-anticipated annual event that gives McKinney senior adults an opportunity to enjoy a day inside MISD. This year, the tour included a visit to an elementary campus (Malvern), a high school campus (McKinney Boyd) and a bus tour through areas of growth in McKinney.
It was the 7th consecutive year for the event, and the Senior Tour doesn’t show signs of slowing down any time soon.
“Our intentions really were in the beginning to get people that are in our community to walk through our doors and see what school is like today,” said MISD Partners in Education Director Nancy Cowlishaw, who organizes the event each year. “Many adults that live in our community, have children who are grown or who have gone off to college or started their own family, and so they’re not in our schools anymore.
“So, our goal, seven years ago, was just to get those senior adults to experience our schools and get an opportunity to see that they are safe and see the technology available now and some of our new programs,” Cowlishaw said.
Enthusiasm for the event seems to just keep growing.
“We actually had our largest group this year. We had 68 adults. Even before we sent out our official sign up, we had people calling and asking us for the dates, so they could call in on the first day,” Cowlishaw said.
In the cafeteria at Malvern, the school’s choir led their guests through the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance, then a group of students stormed the stage to present a rousing student-produced performance of a “Stomp”-like number that featured crashing metal trash can lids, the pounding of long, heavy sticks and—as the name implies—stomping.
The school’s dance team followed up with a routine of their own and then the tour participants were whisked away by student ambassadors to visit classrooms in various grade-level halls around the building.
There they engaged in video interviews with students, divided into small groups with kids wielding laptops and took in a presentation from the school nurse.
In the midst of the busyness, the morning was punctuated by smiles and laughter.
Malvern 5th grader Avery Prejean jumped at the opportunity to serve as a student ambassador for her school and lead a group of senior adults around her campus. “My favorite subject is language arts, and I just love to talk, and I love meeting new people. It means a lot to me [to be able to showcase our school]. It means they know that they can trust me, I guess, for me to walk around and show them our school, and they can count on me to do the right thing,”Avery said.
At Boyd, tour participants were greeted with a drum line as they entered the building. Lunch was served in the school library and accompanied by a performance from the orchestra, then Boyd student council members led the seniors on a tour of the school’s various academic, fine arts and CTE programs that included visits to the choir room for a quick performance and to the aviation classroom where they checked out one of the school’s drones and the flight simulation virtual reality goggles.
Tour regular Jose Aleman is always impressed with what he finds with each visit. “Oh, this is fantastic,” he said. “You know, we went to school when it was a blackboard and white chalk. That’s a thing of the past. They’ve got the smart board now. That blows my mind. It is amazing.”
MISD Board member Maria McKinzie saw a lot of good things happening on the tour. “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for our seniors to go look and see what’s going on in the schools,” she said. “To get involved one on one with the students in bilingual classes and to interact with them is great. Our Senior Tour has a mixture of both Spanish speaking seniors and English speaking seniors. So, it’s good for them to have an opportunity to sit down with those students to share. I think it’s fantastic.
“I know they’re enjoying it, and I look forward to the years to come, and I know some of the seniors that we have here continue to come to the same tour because they enjoy visiting the schools. It’s a great tour,” McKinzie said.