Despite the 99 degree heat on June 9th, the Miquon School’s outdoor graduation was both refreshing and inspiring: a perfect tribute to the unique experience of a Miquon education.
In keeping with tradition, each 6th grade graduate composed and delivered his/her own two-to-three minute graduation speech. Try to pause for a moment and imagine yourself at twelve years old delivering a speech to your school’s entire student body, staff, families and friends. Really, try to imagine it.
Yet the fifteen Miquon graduates delivered funny, moving, reflective and poignant speeches with an ease and skill most adults would envy.
As a parent, listening to my son’s classmates recall their experiences at Miquon, their teachers, and each other, it was difficult to keep the viewfinder on the camera dry. Students recalled years spent playing in the creek, building forts in the bamboo forrest, and the secret economy of “Monkeyland.” But as they were leaving Miquon, they were also drawn to examine their growth as people.
Graduate David Groshens talked about earning and giving respect throughout his journey as an independent thinker, while Serena Lanfranco looked back on the enduring power of a smile. Several sixth grade boys were visibly emotional listening to their friends’ speeches, despite having heard them in practice.
Practice, however, played a smaller role in the impact of those speeches than you might imagine. It was the many years spent in the larger culture of Miquon, a culture that inspires students to read, to write, to speak, perform, and sing, that established the grace and confidence witnessed on that graduation stage.
My son Sam entered Miquon in 5th grade after years of posing as a deer-stuck-in-the-headlights during mandatory performances at his previous school. He completely shocked us when, just months after his arrival at Miquon, he began volunteering for and enjoying school performances, culminating with him singing and playing the lead as a spoofed Macbeth. He is not an “arsty” kid by nature, but he developed confidence and comfort in front of a crowd over his two years at Miquon that I know will stay with him long after he leaves.
At the end of the ceremony, each graduate received a personalized narrative diploma. Each diploma aims to capture the essence of who the student “is” at Miquon. The diplomas are the fruits of a collaborative labor that begins in the winter, as teachers and staff gathered to share memories of the graduates-to-be over their years at Miquon. The 6th grade teachers then write the final draft and artist/calligrapher Leila Sawyer makes each one into a true work of art.
Not only is every diploma unique; each one is absolutely beautiful. As they were presented, I realized how powerfully well this school knows and cares for its students. My son was all smiles during the presentation of his diploma. I was very glad they provided tissues.
This essay originally appeared in Newsworks: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/component/flexicontent/item/22154-miquon