Stonington — About 50 parents joined more than 400 students and staff members Friday afternoon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mystic Middle School.
As the crowd sang "Happy Birthday Mystic Middle," the school's mascot, a giant bear cub, walked into the gym waving to the cheering crowd.
Three students told those gathered what the school means to them, including Stonington High School senior and student government President Joni Moody.
She said the values she learned at the school, especially those that are part of the Cub Way — honesty, safety, respect and responsibility — have stayed with her.
"They're all important, but let me focus on responsibility. It's not just being responsible about your homework and your activities, but taking responsibility in the community by becoming involved, taking chances and striving to do the best you can to impact the world," she said.
Moody, who plans to study social work and international relations in college, told the current students that by following the four rules, there's nothing they can't do.
"Remember what you learned here and take with you the Cub Way," she said.
Principal Jennifer McCurdy said that the students' enthusiasm can be seen every day, and that learning at the school is contagious.
"They see me and call me over to look at a science experiment they're working on or to tell me about a book they're reading," she said.
What makes the school stand out, McCurdy said, is its people — the staff, students and parents.
"What makes Mystic Middle School special is everyone in this room," she said.
Also on hand Friday and being honored were former guidance counselor David Bettger (1974-2002), the school's longest-serving teacher Sue Weaver (36 years) and the two principals who preceded McCurdy — Stafford Thomas (2007-11) and Susan Dumas (1994-2007).
The $1 million Mystic Junior High School opened on Sept. 5, 1962, with 20 classrooms, 25 staff members and more than 500 students. Its name was changed in 1983, and in 1999, an expansion and renovation project was completed. In 2003, under Dumas' leadership, it was named the Connecticut Association of Schools' Outstanding Middle School of the Year.
Today's school has 28 classrooms, expanded facilities, 416 students and 70 staff members. Seven current teachers attended the school as students. Its music program, under the direction of Jim Hilbie and Ellen Gilbert, has won particular acclaim over the years.
After the assembly ended, a group of students put together a time capsule that will be opened at the school's 75th anniversary celebration.
"I don't know about you, but I plan on being there," teacher Shauna Major told the students. "And I hope to see all of you there."