Friday, June 20, 2008

Graduation Day

Last night was Graduation. You can't really "graduate" - we don't offer a diploma - but we have a five-year limit on providing services to any one student; so, instead of just telling students to leave, they "graduate." Sounds much better.

Last night, there should have been four students graduating. One of them was my student Victor. He actually showed up for the first time in several weeks, but when he realized it was graduation - and he'd be called upon to stand up in front of a crowd - he split. He did tell me how much the school had helped him. He told me that when he started, he could hardly speak a word of English. He's made amazing progress - he's one of our highest level students.

Ricardo technically should have graduated last night, but he drives the "bus" - the little van that picks up some of our students who live nearby, and don't have transportation. Finding someone who will reliably come to work a split shift two nights a week isn't easy. Rather than tackle the huge task of replacing him, Kate offered to let him stay. Lucky for us he agreed to hang on for a while.

So, that left Antonio (the husband of my student Gloria) and Eugenio. Antonio graduated first. His tutor must have been really nervous - he kept calling him Ernesto. Then he he started calling him Antonio, and mentioned that he had "two great kids" (ummm, he has three kids. Are you saying only two of them are great??). Antonio kept looking at him like he had two heads.

Then, it was Eugenio's turn. He's been Kate's student the entire five years he's been at school, so she shared five things she loves about Eugenio. Then Eugenio gave the most amazing speech. He'd written it himself, memorized it, and he delivered it perfectly. His pronunciation is incredible. He stood there, dressed in a shirt and tie for the occasion, and talked about "our beloved school," and how it was a lot of work to get "this document," (his certificate that Kate printed off a couple of hours before), and just in general about working hard. Eugenio was 58 years old when he started, and spoke no English. He now tests at a level 4. He doesn't have a car, but his attendance over the past year has been 98%. He'll walk, bike, ride the school bus, ride the public bus - whatever it takes to get to school. His motivation is just amazing. I have such admiration for what my students are doing - starting life over in a new country, learning a new language. I had a small taste of that and I know it's hard.

We're almost done with the school-year; we'll have a two-week break, and restart classes in mid-July. We've got a bunch of new students to place. I'm kinda looking forward to having a bunch of new students. Fresh faces, who don't have anyone to compare me to.

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