Hi, I’m Sarah and I’ve been at St. Joseph’s Indian School for 11 years.
And I’m Jennie; I’ve been at St. Joseph’s Indian School for 17 years.
We’d like to give you an inside look into one of the biggest days here at St. Joseph’s: 8th Grade Graduation. Continue reading to hear about our exciting day!
As the year comes to an end, the eighth graders become extremely excited, but also anxious. They are anticipating their eighth grade graduation and all of the banquets, ceremonies, and special gifts that go along with it. Along with all of these great things, there can also be some nervousness for our Native American students. It may be the students are envisioning their first day of high school at a new school, or they may still be unsure of where they want to go to high school. This is my seventh year of eighth grade graduation. One would think I would be used to this chaotic order of the end of the year… However, I too, as an adult, still get caught up in the excitement and anxiety.
St. Joseph’s does something special for our kids in these last few days. We offer them what we call our Eighth Grade Retreat, where all eighth graders spend some time together, along with a few staff, and discuss high school and the future. We reinforce what a wonderful time of their life they have ahead of them, but also that they may experience struggles along this way. We encourage these students and remind them that, during those times of trouble, they must remain confident in themselves, keep their faith in God strong, and also that they can lean on their St. Joseph’s family. We then give students special letters that have been written for them from the staff and faculty of St. Joseph’s. These letters are a surprise to the students. Sometimes the letters bring tears and sometimes they bring laughs, but most of all they offer the students support. They show someone here at St. Joseph’s will continue thinking of them even though they may not see the student as often.
The day continues on with a pizza lunch, where staff are invited to give their congratulations to the graduates and a trip to the movie theatre with their fellow eighth grade classmates. The day is full of emotion. I have asked students in the past what their favorite part of the day was. Most students respond with reading the letters. For me, this affirms the purpose of the retreat and most definitely the personal letters to the students. It validates the time spent doing them and most of all I go away feeling as though I have given the students my best. I’ve taught them Science, I’ve attempted to teach them social skills, but most important of all I’ve told them I care.
Then on Friday the big day is finally upon us! Students are with their families and friends in the morning getting dressed up, sharing breakfast and having pictures taken. They report to the chapel around 10:45 am for final instructions and line-up in preparation for the 11 am start. This is a fun time as the students are excited and nervous and are just enjoying the moment. Once the actual graduation begins there is some nervousness as they walk down the aisle in front of family, friends and staff. The students generally relax once every one is in and seated and the actual ceremony begins. The students participate by doing the prayers of petition, thanking our guest speaker and reading a friendship poem usually written by one of our eighth graders.
Their faces truly begin to beam when it is time to receive their eighth grade certificate. Again the nerves show a bit as they walk up in front of everyone and pose for a picture but the pride is evident. Next the Rose Ceremony, a favorite time for our students, begins. They are given two roses which they present to their families as a thank you for all of their support and love throughout the years. They also write thank you notes to family and staff that are delivered during this time as well. Then the most fun moment of all is the slide show. Each student is represented by baby pictures progressing through their eighth grade graduation picture and then they personally share their favorite memories in a short video clip. The students then proceed to the receiving line where everyone greats them with congratulations and good luck!!
Our students then officially begin their transition home and onto the next steps into their futures. This is a very bittersweet time for all of us who work with these students. We are so very proud and excited for each of them but a little saddened as we know we will need to let go as they move on.
It is truly our pleasure to be a part of these young lives and appreciate the families giving us the opportunity to Serve and Teach, Receive and Learn. Honestly, it’s the greatest gift in the world!