Idiosyncratic graduation ceremony

So, this evening we graduated 41 seniors, with none of the church-state drama some other Kentucky high schools are suffering through. In fact, our ceremony was, as usual, quite pleasant.

Being a small school helps, since reading only 30-40 names goes a lot quicker than 300-400 or more, but we have honed the ceremony down to the essentials.

Herewith is a summary of the evening’s festivities. Times are approximate, since I was not really keeping track of time.

At 5:45, students enter auditorium to precessional by brass quartet, followed by faculty.

Invocation, very non-denominational, by female Episcopal minister. (3 minutes)

Head of school offers welcoming remarks and addresses class. (About 10 minutes)

Alumni award is given to a member of class of ’84. (About 15 minutes)

Featured speaker is departing history teacher, who recalls his youthful optimism of the late ’60s and charges the seniors with the task of retaining theirs. Then he sings the Bob Dylan song, “Forever Young,” accompanied by one of the seniors on guitar. Who knew he could sing? [Last year, a math teacher danced during his speech. Don’t ask.] (About 15 minutes)

Honors graduates are recognized, Commonwealth Diploma graduate recognized. (10 minutes)

Awards are given to five students. (20 minutes)

Five students speak. Each year, these speakers are self-selected and their speeches are never screened ahead of time. So far, none have been embarrassing. Aside from the diploma handoffs, this part takes the longest, maybe 30 minutes.
Student 1: One of the awardwinners and the sole Commonwealth Diploma holder glosses on the eternal question, “So you’ve graduated. How do you feel?” She did a great job, weaving the typical vague teenager answers with more topical discussion, similar to those in their history and English classes.
Student 2: Following a hard act to follow, he admits that he has no prepared notes, but offers a heartfelt thank you and “I love you” to students, teachers and family. Completely characteristic of this guy, who is usually never at a loss for words.
Student 3: One of our transfers, she chokes back tears as she relates how coming to our school from a much larger one was at once scary and entirely worthwhile, and thanks the classmate who welcomed her to the “family” two years ago.
Student 4: Another transfer relates how the school helped turn her life around, from a disaffected gothgirl who slept through classes (including mine, hah!) to an unabashedly confident nerd who loves AP classes and Quick Recall.
Student 5: Another awardwinner, this guy has written a poem, almost like a hiphop lyric, describing his feelings toward classmates, teachers, school, family. It’s actually quite good, and funny.

Diploma handoffs (30 minutes)

Benediction, also very non-denominational. (3 minutes)

Recessional music by brass quartet is, conspiratorially, drowned out by an oldies Motown hit.

And that’s that. Idiosyncratic, organized chaos.

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