Graduation Season in Guatemala

Our volunteer in the field, Linnea, sends us a first-hand account of graduations in Guatemala:

graduation season.jpg

“We’ve made it through flag season, we’re just about done with graduation season and we’re moving right along into Christmas season! I’d like to explain to you what graduation season means here in Guatemala. I’m sure we all know what its like in the United States with greeting cards and everything is about caps and gowns and parties and celebrations and gifts and graduates getting jobs or continuing their education. In Guatemala, it’s a little different.

Guatemalans know how to celebrate, as I mentioned in the previous post about Independence Day, and they definitely know how to celebrate a graduation as well. However, some of the celebration is reserved for the school and that is it. As a teacher in the schools here in Sololà, and someone who works with Starfish, I have had the distinct pleasure in attending a few graduations and I think I now understand how they work. The school puts on a ceremony where the students are introduced and the parents are presented. The student receives a diploma, a few people speak about the importance of continuing education, members of the audience can be seen sneaking in some shuteye during the speakers, and then everyone eats some tamales and drinks some very sweet, diluted coffee. Personally, I love it.

I recently was chosen, approximately 20 minutes before the ceremony, to be the master of ceremonies and the keynote speaker of a graduation in the rural village of Buena Vista where several Starfish students are enrolled. The director came up to me while I was hanging balloons and handed me the program of the ceremony and pointed to line number six where it said, “Profesora de ingles, Seño Linnea Joffe, palabras de intervenciòn,” an in English that means that I had some pretty important roles to fill. I quickly wrote out some inspirational words and tried to think of something witty and funny to say and we got on with the presentation. In the end, it was fine. The majority of parents at this school only speak Kaqchikel, and seeing as my Kaqchikel is limited to a few choice vocabulary words, I delivered my speech in Spanish and mostly to the student population.

Middle school graduations and high school graduations are delivered a little bit differently. Middle schoolers, especially those sponsored by Starfish, are going to continue studying so they are right now choosing their career path. High schoolers are most likely now equipped with a vocation and looking for a job. Either way, graduating from any level of education is a big deal as most of these kids are in the first generation of graduates and that is something to be proud of. These students are probably not going to receive the gifts and cards and level of praise that students in the United States do, but they deserve it just as equally, if not more.”

We are so proud of each and every one of our Starfish graduates! If you would like to see more photos of them, check out our Flickr page.

Posted on November 23, 2012