By Jody Worsham
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
The Best Little School House in Texas
By Jody Worsham
All rights reserved for small schools
I haven’t been to a small high school graduation in…well since my own graduating class of nineteen students over fifty years ago. Since my twelve-year old will be graduating from her new school in ___I can’t believe it___six years___we decided to attend.
I knew, from the limited parking, to get there early. What I didn’t know was that I would be sitting in the bleachers, the chairs on the gym floor being reserved for family and friends of the graduates. Black plastic was duck taped to the gym windows (I could fix that. There would be proper blackout inserts for my child’s graduation) in order for the slide presentations to be seen. A portable stage was set up at one end of the gymnasium with a curtained backdrop and chairs for the administrators who would be presenting the diplomas. Twenty-four chairs were lined up to the right of the stage for the graduating class of 2013. Eighteen chairs were set up next to the giant screen for those presenting scholarships to the graduates on the opposite side. At 6:45 the principal, superintendent, secretary, and counselor began bringing in the potted ferns for the edge of the stage.
At precisely 7p.m. the Graduating Class of 2013 marched in appropriately spaced to make the most of their numbers to a recording of “Pomp and Circumstance” and amidst shouts, hoorahs, and whistles that would have put my husband’s PhD. graduation at A&M to shame. Clearly these were proud and possibly relieved parents to see their children about to graduate.
After the prayer (yes, they pray at this school) the historian presented the history of the class. Seven of the twenty-four who started kindergarten together were graduating together. She named the others and the year they joined the class. The Salutatorian gave a moving speech about having a rough start but then was guided and challenged by teachers who knew when to tug and when to hug. The Valedictorian entertained us with a speech from the view point of a modern teenager whose parents and teachers were often viewed as not so modern. I laughed. I cried. I remembered.
Scholarships were then presented. When the presentations were over twenty-four graduates shared in over $400,000 in scholarships. Every single graduate received a scholarship from the community in the amount of $1,000.
The power point presentation was next. Pictures of special moments in each graduates’ life appeared on the giant screen. Black plastic and duct tape quickly forgotten. Captured moments filled with laughter. Some pictures with stories shared only by the graduates but special all the same.
An hour and a half had elapsed when the superintendent came to the podium. Some have asked “Couldn’t we shorten this ceremony a bit” but I suspect for the parents of these graduates, it has gone way too fast.”
And with that each graduate came forward to receive his diploma. The principal having attested to the fact that all graduates had met the requirements set forth by the state of Texas, declared them high school graduates and instructed them to move their tassels to the other side of their mortar board hats.
Then each graduate was given the opportunity to present roses to those who held a special place in their hearts. It took a bit of time as they searched the crowds for the ones they had selected, but nobody seemed to mind.
They reassembled, the benediction, the recessional and it was over.
Fifty years ago as I received my diploma, I was excited about the future. Today I am once again exited for the future of my children who will soon graduate from this little school.
The school is growing as others seek that which is so special about this school. Another classroom is already being built. Growth is necessary but I hope it never grows so large that each graduate could not receive a scholarship, or the power point reduced to strobe like flashes of pictures or the opportunity for the seniors to present their roses. I would miss that.
Small school doesn’t automatically equal a small education. I hope this school never outgrows what makes it so special. Size matters when it comes to the size of the schools’ heart, not the size of its graduating class.