Graduation time is such a fun time to celebrate our students. We usually have several graduations to attend over just a few days, but it’s so worth it. While I usually am running around taking pictures, giving hugs, and telling students how proud of them I am, every graduation I try to take a minute to sit back and think on those specific students and what this means for their lives. I am struck by their stories. Their stories deserve to be considered.
In this graduation year of 2017, I reflected back on the sixth graders in one of our communities. I have been working with this same group of students since they were in the third grade and have looped up with them every year.
Although graduations are a time for celebration, each student has a story and many times it’s a heartbreaking one. Yes, I am proud of them just because they graduated, but our students deserve for their stories to be considered. As student holds her diploma with their uncle standing next to her because both parents are working in Costa Rica and since the third grade she has gotten up every morning to hand-wash her own uniform, I think about how her story carries weight and value. She goes to school with a hunger to learn that is greater than the hunger from not eating. Her story deserves to be considered.
His story deserves to be considered as I watch a son accompanied by his mom. Strikingly absent is the father who last month had an accident and lays at home in a vegetative state after the hospital sent him home. The student worked so hard this year. He pushed through rejection, failure, and the pressure to drop out and work. I know what he goes home to after the teacher hands him his diploma and his story deserves to be considered.
Absent from graduation is my sweet girl who had to move away due to a drunken and neglectful parent. She worked so hard the last four years. Her story deserves to be considered.
My girls are powerful and strong, but everyday they have to turn down advances and calls from men. As they walk to school in their uniform, they think of their homework and tests instead of focusing on what that man just shouted at them. These girls are resilient in the face of complete injustice. I take a moment to sit in their stories. These girls and women have stories that deserve to be considered.
There are others. There are countless stories of abuse, rejection, and neglect. These moments that I reflect on my students are personal ones. It’s personal to me and to our students, which is why there are no names or even pictures here. You don’t need to put a face to these stories to know they exist.
Somehow the flimsy diploma handed to them by their teacher and the thirty seconds they are in front doesn’t seem enough.