Congratulations to today's 6th grade graduates: Odette Blair, Monecia Graham, Nadalia Simms, Jason Graham, Anthony James, Zendae Lewis, and Richard Logan!
Attending a Jamaican graduation is a lot like attending a southern baptist church service with everybody in their Sunday best! I don't make this comparison in jest, rather that it feels familiar. (Remember, I am from the south.) Truth be told, graduation from the 6th grade in Jamaica is on par in importance with 12th grade graduation in the U.S.!
It is not a short ceremony (a little more than 5 hours long) nor is it intended to be taken lightly. Reflections in praise, faith, uplifting messages, and cautionary tales of inevitable pitfalls, are all in the name of Christ.
The running theme today among each speaker and representative (I believe divinity intervened) was cultivation of seeds (students) so that they may 'blossom/grow (thrive) in the soil they are planted in'.
There is a concern within some Jamaican communities that the local (high) schools are not always worthy - and while it's true that many struggle financially to keep up with the larger cities - there is a major push for technology (tablets), funded programs, and clean water to reach even the most remote of communities!
Truth be told, as many struggles as the Bigwoods Primary School students and teachers endure - they have still managed to exceed the national averages in every subject!! These incredible teachers are the true embodiment of what it means to be an educator!
The accolades and awards portion of the ceremony followed and was lengthy in recognitions. Awards varied from attendance to grade performance and sports achievements. I was very surprised in the midst of the award presentations to be called up and acknowledged for my time with the children and it was with heartfelt thanks that I accepted their gratitude.
We began our ceremonies around 10am and just after 3pm the graduates took their final march back up the aisle to celebrate and embrace with their families and friends.
While my time at Bigwoods Primary School has been short my impressions are well rounded. The teachers and children in this community play hard, learn intensely, and love fiercely. I leave here a better person for having met each and every one of them.
I don't know what their futures hold, but I know God holds this community in high regard and His blessings are sure to continue. Many of you contributed to make my journey possible and I'm forever grateful for it. I hope I have been able to paint a clear image of my experiences and maybe in some small way encourage you (in your own way) to find a way to help.
Every child needs love, support, good nutrition, and education, it is up to us as citizens to do our part.
Thank you for joining me, supporting me, and loving me so that I could be strong for these amazing Bigwoods Primary students!
Tomorrow I drive back to Kingston to catch a 4am flight back Saturday, July 4th. I'll wish you all now, a happy 4th of July!