BUTLER, Tenn. (WJHL) – Little Milligan Elementary held its final 8th-grade graduation ceremony on Monday, celebrating its final class of eighth-graders.

Earlier this year, the Carter County Board of Education approved a consolidation plan that will turn Little Milligan Elementary into a pre-k through 5th-grade campus. Up until now, they’ve been operating as a pre-k through 8th-grade campus. In the next school year, 6th through 8th grades will move to Hampton Elementary.

Families, students, faculty and staff filled the gym to honor the eleven graduating 8th graders.

Many of the 8th graders are excited to move on to high school. However, others are having mixed emotions about leaving Little Milligan.

“Weird,” said James Mains, an 8th-grade graduate. “It makes me happy, but it is kind of sad too.”

“Here it feels like home,” said grad Chase Davenport. “This place is very special to me and many of the people, everybody knows each other. Everybody knows each other as family. And it’s just very sad to see this place go.”

“Kind of nervous,” said Chloe Lee, 8th-grade graduate. “I have a lot of babies here. A lot of little kids that I’ve gotten close to, so it’s hard to leave them. Pretty good. You know, I got to open up a new chapter in my life, but it is a little hard, a little heartbreaking. But I’m ready, I think.”

“I’m really excited but also it’s kind of sad that I’m in the last class to graduate from here,” said grad Baileigh Mathews.

Many of the 8th graders have attended Little Milligan since pre-k, but some recently moved to the school. Emily Pope moved here from Florida last year.

“When I first came to the school last year, I always thought that, ‘Oh, they’re not going to like me because I’m new and all that,” said Pope. “But then when I got used to the school in the beginning of this year, I learned to just not pay attention to that. Just to think about what makes you happy and then that can help you push through.”

Rylee Layne also moved to Little Milligan from Florida. She transferred in the 6th grade.

“So, I haven’t been here forever, but when I got here, I could tell everyone was really tight and everyone was like family,” said Layne.

Layne said she appreciates the small school community.

“You get to ask for one-on-one help,” said Layne. “But when you’re in Florida, you have to schedule that out, you can’t really ask questions. You’re kind of forced to learn quick. And here you get to go slow and get close to people.”

Little Milligan principal, JR Campbell, says he’s sad to see the 8th graders go but is hopeful for the future of the school.

“I’m thinking that with our small number of kids, this is a perfect place for a kid to go to school,” said Campbell. “And I think once the word gets out, our enrollment may be going up.”

He says he believes this because they’re losing upper grades. He said a couple of classes that the outside modular buildings held will now be moved inside the school building.

“We cover from the North Carolina line down to Doe Valley,” said Campbell. “We’ve got kids here from Hampton and kids from all over.”

6th through 8th-grade sports will also come to an end at Little Milligan. Campbell says they’re known for their basketball teams and their players.

“We’ll miss that for the community to come participate and watch the basketball games,” said Campbell. “You know, in Carter County, basketball’s big and that’s what we do in Carter County, we play basketball and some of our students were on the state championship team in Hampton that just won this year and we’re real proud of them.”

Before leaving, the 8th graders left some advice for younger students.

“Don’t let reputation bother you,” said Pope. “Don’t let other people think that they’re better than you, because if they’re trying to look down on you and trying to make you feel like you’re smaller than them, that makes you bigger than them. Because you can overcome them.”

Chloe Lee said not to let anyone judge you.

“If you let people judge you, then you can start believing it [judgment] yourself,” said Lee. “And you can start going down the wrong path, the way I did before I had teachers help me become a better person.”

The Carter County consolidation plan also intends to close Keenburg Elementary. Students there will go to Central and Hunter Elementary Schools.