Having been in education for over 50 years and directly involved in school administration from 1967 to 1991, I have been to my share of high school graduations. That does not count my children or grandchildren (there are still 4 more to go with them).
I have been an observer, a participant, a speaker, and organizer and a diploma signer. I cannot count the number of students that I have had pass me by on the stage as they have gotten their ticket to the next level of their lives. It is well into five numbers. That includes my own graduation from high school with my 999 other classmates.
Last night was probably the most interesting high school graduation that I have been to. It was held in a football stadium in Ridgeland, South Carolina. It was the first class to graduate since a consolidation of a Ridgeland-Hardeeville consolidation four years ago. Of course, as in any consolidation of schools, there are still those who object to the consolidation. I can recall that, in Pennsylvania, people were still objecting to a consolidation that took place in 1966. Those scars don’t heal quickly.
Carol and I arrived at the stadium at about 6:30. One side of the bleachers was completely filled. We were forced to go to the “visitors” side usually reserved for the other team’s followers at a football game. The center of the field was covered with a podium and chairs. Those were for the students, faculty and any bigwigs that might have been there.
As usual, we were the only snowflakes on the set of stands in which we were sitting. The stands were populated with the families of the students (125 of them) that were graduating. At first we believed that those seated with us were somehow related to the graduates. As it turned out, this was a community event. We were told about having tickets left at the box office for us. However, there were no tickets and certainly no box office.
Since Carol had written an article about both the valedictorian and salutatorian, we were familiar with the two young ladies. We were also familiar with the young lady who had won a phenomenal number of scholarships. These three were the main speakers. Actually, all of the student speakers were young women.
The crowd numbered in the thousands. The entire community was there to send these young people on to the next step in their lives. The parking was unbelievable, but the courtesy extended to everyone was wonderful. There were no police inside the stadium, only on the roads coming to and leaving.
We made a point to see some of the young men and women that we had worked with during the year. We were very fortunate to be able to find many of them. I was able to find Darius and give him a bottle of strawberry syrup. He was only able to drink strawberry milk at some of our meetings.
We met the families of some of the students and were bear hugged by some others. Once again, it gave me a feeling that we were back in the 1950’s. The crowds were orderly and joyous. Those there were proud of their students and their community. We look forward to continuing communication with the young men and women that we have worked with. It was an honor to be at their graduation.