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For regional students, the upcoming 3 months are worth wait

Avery Welsh, 7, left, and her sister, Olivia, 9, play Friday at Rice Park in Willmar on the first day of their summer break. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Pencils? Nope. Books? Not likely. Teachers' dirty looks? Not for three more months, at least.

"I'm excited to be done with school," said Jacob Renteria, 12, who just finished his sixth-grade year at Willmar Middle School. "I don't like getting up early in the morning. Or tests. I hate tests."

Students in the area are enjoying their first days off from school by soaking up the sun, sleeping in and trying to forget about a year's worth of homework-related stress.

Many students, like Jacob, chose to celebrate their first day out of the classroom Friday in Willmar by catching up on sleep, ignoring alarm clocks and sleeping through concerned parents' knocks on the door.

Instead, they woke up well after sunrise and spent the rest of the day hanging out with friends and relishing their new freedom.

"I love summer," said Andrea Nyland, 13, a soon-to-be eighth-grader at Willmar Middle School.

"It's hot so you get to go swimming. And you can do a lot more things than you can on a weekend."

Her friend, 10-year-old Mallory Sunder, agreed. "Five-day weekends!" she said excitedly.

Still, Mallory admits there are some things she will miss about school. "I'm sad because I don't get to see my friends as much," she said.

But for Mallory, who just finished her fifth-grade year at Kennedy Elementary School, looking forward to family vacations at her lake cabin in Akeley and staying up late at sleepovers with her best friends make up for not seeing her classmates every day at school.

"I love spending time with my friends," she said. Mallory made the most of her first day off, swinging on the monkey bars at 7th Street North Park and making plans to buy a hamster, which she'll probably name Finn.

At Rice Park, smaller children gathered with parents and grandparents to climb the jungle gym and spin on the merry-go-round until only slightly queasy.

Sisters Avery and Olivia Welsh, 7 and 9, entertained their grandparents at the park for the day. Despite the sunny weather, they both said they miss the structure of the school day.

"I love school," Avery said quietly, confessing that she already misses her first-grade teacher and her friends.

"I don't like (being out for the summer)," her sister Olivia agreed. "I miss my friends."

But when asked by her grandmother if she missed all the homework that came along with fourth grade, Olivia had to rethink her answer.

"I don't miss that," she said.

Other students, however, are already looking forward to next year. For Sierra Castro, 13, the 2010-11 school year will bring plenty of changes as she moves from Willmar Middle School to Willmar Senior High School.

Though Sierra will once again start at the bottom of the school chain as a freshman next year, she said she's "excited for a change.

"I don't like middle school anymore," she said. "Not after the sixth-graders moved in."

Willmar Schools recently changed to a middle school format, with students in sixth through eighth grades in the building on Willmar Avenue that formerly was a junior high home to only seventh and eighth grades.

No matter the age or the grade, though, one feeling remains constant among students: relief -- relief to be done with school and to have an entire summer without tests, homework or annoying alarm clocks.

"I don't have to wake up early for school anymore!" Olivia Welsh said.

And that -- along with no more pencils, no more books and no more teachers' dirty looks -- might be the biggest reason area students are already well on their way to enjoying summer vacation to its fullest.

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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