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Puppets, Marching Band Welcome City Heights Students

— Sixth graders holding colorfully painted flags and handmade masks waited eagerly on the athletic field at Monroe Clarck Middle School. They cheered when Principal Thomas Liberto stepped off the school’s annual parade, complete with marching band, to Rosa Parks Elementary two blocks away.

Aired 7/9/13 on KPBS News.

Monroe Clark Middle School in City Heights held its eighth annual puppet parade Tuesday.

Sixth graders from Monroe Clark Middle School in City Heights marched with colorful flags and handmade masks to great incoming students at Rosa Parks Elementary School two blocks away, July 9, 2013.

This is the eighth summer the school has taken over the stretch between it and its closest feeder school for a rowdy celebration. The Mid City Police Division blocks traffic for the event and the San Diego Guild of Puppetry works with students on the art they march with.

The point of the short march is to welcome incoming sixth graders.

“So, it’s a message to them to say ‘hey, we’re welcoming you. We want you here," said Liberto. "'You’re important not only to our school, but to the whole community.' And so, we do this parade to go down and pick them up and bring them over.”

Liberto said the parade helps ease the transition to the middle school for anxious students and their parents and reminds the school's neighbors that they're part of a tight-knit community.

As the students made their way down 45th Street, neighborhood residents looked on from front yards, pulled chairs to the curb and snapped pictures with their phones.

Current sixth grader Ahmed Mohamed remembers last year’s puppet parade, which introduced him to Monroe Clark. He said he was excited to take over the neighborhood streets again.

“We get to run around, go to Rosa Parks. It’s awesome,” he said, beaming. But the best part is "giving masks to the little kids.”

His classmate Lizeth Lopez agreed that the parade is a lot of fun. But she hopes it also shows the incoming students a few important things about their new school.

“It’s a big school," she said. "But there’s people that are really smart here and they value things a lot."

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