Todays theme from Miss Peg is ‘Home’. However as I already wrote quite a few of my thoughts on this topic here I decided to think a little outside the box.
At the end of each academic year the college I work at hosts a Leavers Ceremony, it’s a little like a graduation. All students and teachers as well as sponsors and guests of the college gather in the Bradenstoke Hall for the ceremony. Unlike a traditional graduation the students have all received their certificates the previous evening at the leavers dinner. This day is a day of celebration and thanks; there are speeches from first years thanking their second years for guidence and from leavers who try to summarise the past two years at this amazing place and their feelings on moving on. It’s a very emotional day.
The Bradenstoke Hall
The organisation of this event falls to me. I arrange the speakers, select the performances, source prizes for award winners, chase people for rehearsals, invite donors and Governors and ensure everyone knows what they are doing on the day. This year was my first ever experience of an UWC Atlantic College Leavers Ceremony so I was organising blind. Luckily people round here are very helpful and were more than happy to point me in the right direction; at the same time we have a very active student body, they have so many ideas on how they wish to do things and were more than happy to get involved with organising this event.
The week before the ceremony almost everything was ready; the head of the music department assured me that the two students selected to perform were well rehearsed, I had heard both student speakers and was happy they were going to be brilliant…all those participating were prepared, save one group. One of the more active students in organising the ceremony had told me of a singing group who were really keen to perform at the ceremony. It was a group of second years who had been ‘practicing for weeks’ but did not have time to perform for me before the event because of school commitments. I’d heard tales from the previous year when an under rehearsed group had been allowed on stage (though people here can be prone to exaggeration, all office based environments love a bit of drama!) and so was this <-> close to pulling them from the ceremony, everyone else had time to perform for me so what was the problem? Had it not been for the pleading and promises that they *were* ready and would be fab on the day, ‘Please please let them perform’ I would have probably gone with my instincts and told them no.
I’m really glad I didn’t.
This college is amazing. It brings together students from around the world and all walks of life. There are young men and women here who have never left their home countries before sharing dorms with students from the most privileged backgrounds you can imagine. They have all travelled thousands of miles, aged just 16, to study in a foreign language with people of totally different cultures, Where else could you find students from Israel and Pakistan giving a talk together on the differences between their cultures to an audience from over 80 different countries? They all went to dinner together afterwards, as they do every night. It’s an inspiring environment to witness.
This singing group embodied AC to perfection. They were all so individual, in their look, fashion, accents and (when you took the chance to speak to them) backgrounds. They stood at the front of the hall, this mismatched ensemble, and sung their own version of a song I’d never heard before, a song which I now love. This song is called ‘Home’. It’s essentially meant to be about a couple, but for these students it was about their school, their friends and teachers who had become family over the past two years and an experience they will never forget. It gave me goosebumps. I think this song will transport me back to this place, and that moment, for the rest of my life.
After the performance the second years are asked to gather in the inner courtyard while the first years line the path around the castle. As the leavers parade past their peers and teachers there are claps, cheers and hugs. Even witnessing it as a bit of an outsider (my job does not bring me as close to the students day to day as others do) you could feel something magical on this day, really see friendships which will last a lifetime. Most weeks I wish I had had the chance to study here, but I have never wanted it as hard as on this day. To so many of these amazing young people this place is home, I wish I were that lucky.
First years line the castle walls to bid their second years farewell.
This post is part of the Twitter Blogathon.