I attended a smallish high school. This is the same high school my daughter will be attending come this fall; where teens I’ve worked with, neighbors, and the children of former classmates and friends have also graduated from over the last 30 years.
Four or five years ago, graduation ceremonies were moved from our own auditorium to a local community college across the river. The reason was a massive construction project to expand our school. It made sense: the parking lot was basically torn up, areas were closed off, and the place was a mess.
The work is now done. I expressed the opinion it was time to move graduation back to our OWN stage. The same stage where our band and chorus and drama club preform. Save the rental fees of going elsewhere, and having a time limit on being there because some other school is using the same venue on the same day.
I wasn’t expecting to get jumped on for my comments, but that is exactly what happened. I was informed it was the RIGHT of the extended family to be there, whereas at home, seating was more limited.
30 years ago, each student was given 4 tickets. More were available on a limited basis, as needed and first come. I had my parents, grandmother, brother, godmother and favorite cousin at school when I walked across the stage, Other family members were waiting at my home to celebrate with a dinner out that night. The big celebration was my party later that summer. Graduation Day is about the STUDENTS, not the extended family. It is about the work put into getting that piece of paper.
30 years ago, we the students had center stage: We sat on the stage, our Valedictorian, Salutatorian, and Honor Grad sitting with the rest of the class. Guest speakers sat off to one side. It was not their day, it was ours: they were there to applaud US.
I’ve seen the pictures from this year’s ceremonies. Not only did it not take place where the students actually did the work, and dealt with the last four years of their “public” lives, to me, the emphasis was on the guest speakers, NOT the Graduates. The top three students sat on the main stage with the guest speakers, NOT with their classmates and friends. The graduating class, WHOSE DAY THIS WAS, were shunted off to sit on the side.
Which is bad enough. I swear some of the guest speakers have someone else write their speeches and they don’t bother to even read them over before hand. Mis-pronouncing people’s names, and even the name of the SCHOOL? Hardly professional or respectful. An old classmate of mine is now a principal in another district. He was flabbergasted this year when a guest speaker couldn’t even pronounce “Salutatorian”.
I make no apologies for my belief that Graduation Day is about the STUDENTS, and those most responsible for these young adults making it to this point: usually their parents, certain teachers or coaches. The ones who gave the most encouragement, or the needed kicks in the ass for motivation. Those who made sure the students got to class, practice, games, shows, parades. The ones who dealt with the drama and the tears and the headaches. Parents, maybe grandparents. Aunt Bessie from Boston and Uncle Pete from Pittsburg? That’s what parties are for.