When we think of a graduation we usually see a formal, stuffy and grand affair. Graduates are wearing gowns and funny hats with a long tassel and important people make long boring speeches. This is not what 5WTI’s graduation looks like yet it does share the same important rituals common to graduations.
We have to remember that even if our programs are shorter in length than high school, college or university programs, the hours spent in training and completing assignments are often the same. Graduating from our programs is an important event that must reflect our learners and our values. As a result, we have adapted the traditional ceremony to a more informal and personal one.
Many of the students who attend our school have had negative school experiences and as a result most have never graduated from any institution. Therefore, for many students this will be the first time they will graduate!
This is how 5WTI has adapted the graduation traditions to fit our students and values.
1) The Walk
This symbolic walk marks the beginning of the next chapter of their life. This is done in front of classmates, instructors and people who care about them. They all bear witness to their tremendous accomplishment. As graduates come to the front to accept a gift, they are greeted by their instructors and peers.
2) Presentation of Graduates
Graduates are called and asked to stand with their graduating peers and their instructors. This gesture makes them look around and remember the journey they have taken together. It is a strong feeling of accomplishment to stand beside your friends knowing that your struggles and successes are shared by all.
We keep the speeches short and to the point but they are always very inspiring and touching. Because many of our students were frequently unsuccessful in their previous studies several have convinced themselves that they were just not smart enough. Their experience has proven that they can succeed. Here they have learned the importance of meeting standards to prepare for the workplace. Their journey has been challenging but rewarding. The speeches focus on how:
- They set goals and worked hard to accomplish them
- They overcame challenges
- Their lives have been changed
- And now they are able to thank all the people who gave them help and support
Graduation day is also a special gift for the family and friends who have supported their loved ones. They truly know the depths of their struggles of facing unemployment and negativity. While at school, they provided encouragement, accepted additional family responsibilities, taken out loans and often given up savings to help them reach their goal. Now they see them reach this important milestone and this is their reward.
Graduation day is also very rewarding to all 5WTI staff. When our students arrive they are often frightened, nervous and have low self-confidence. During their time with us they experience, patient instruction, encouragement and positive feedback. On graduation day, we sometimes can’t recognize them because they walk tall with confidence, knowing that they have the skills, the certification and the tools to start a new life. They did it and we are all part of it!
6) Sharing a Meal
It is traditional to mark an important event by sharing a meal. Once the formalities are over, it is now time for all graduates, family, friends and staff to casually get to know each other. Graduates are proud to finally introduce their instructors to their loved ones and instructors have an opportunity to share stories of their time together.
The graduation ceremony marks an important passage to another step in a person’s life. At 5WTI we believe that this accomplishment deserves to be formally celebrated but in a relaxed atmosphere. It also serves to remind us of our purpose – “we help people, so they can help themselves and others”. It’s what inspires us to do our best work.