Tonight the group from St Paul UMC in Jacksonville, Florida arrived. As I sat and talked with them about the previous weeks, I realized I had not sat down to blog about graduation on Saturday. It seems like such a momentous occasion to not blog about but it was nestled between two groups of missionaries, which made for a busy week.
Saturday June 8, 2013 we had the first graduation of Centro de Formacion Cristiana. As I picked up Kendys and drove out to Cuesta Arena, I couldn’t help remember the first day of school and compare the two. The first day of school (the first few weeks of school) as I remember there were complete ciaos though that may not have been what I blogged. There were so many people present from the community and the church and the children were terrified. For the first week straight the kids screamed nearly the entire two hours (we started with abbreviated days). Everyone looked to me for answers.
Fast forward 10 months and the children were still crying but now because they couldn’t come to school during summer. One day last week I found Miguel standing at the fence of the property crying. As I walked over to him to find out what happened, he told me he couldn’t find his uniform to be able to come to school. I tried to explain to him that school was over and he didn’t need his uniform to come play. I carried him over to Daisy to have her explain to him that he didn’t need his uniform in summer.
On the Wednesday before graduation, Kendys and I had a meeting with the mothers about graduation. In the previous months, we had told them plan graduation. I quickly saw the power of handing over all control to the moms. During the meeting, I literally said nothing. One thing I had thought would be nice was to have a professional photographer take a class picture of the kids and an individual picture of those graduating. I told them I had talked to someone to see if it was possible but I was still waiting to hear back from them. After the meeting was over, a few moms stayed around and came up and talked with me about the photographer. They explained they had someone in the area and they thought it would be easier for the parents to buy their own pictures if the person was in the area. Once I heard that they had someone and they wanted to be in charge of that too, I told them to go for it.
On Saturday morning, I told Sairy as we drove out to Cuesta Arena, that I had a feeling we were going to see a different side to Cuesta Arena than we had seen before. As we pulled up to the property, the pavilion was decorated like I had never seen before. Only because I heard them in the meeting did I know that much of the decorations they had taken down from their own home to put up for graduation. Curtains added color, trees had been uprooted and replanted to add landscape, and food came from everywhere! The children returning to school next year all came in their uniform shirts (especially Miguel) and the graduates came all dressed up! The photographer took pictures and we began the 9:00am ceremony promptly on time (for the Dominican Republic) at 10am (or so). Sairy opened with prayer, Kendys introduced the graduates by name, saying a little something about each graduate, the kids sang some song they learned, and my favorite part, when the kids each said something they were grateful for. Each child got a gift bag the teacher had prepared along with the class work for the year. Each graduate got a bookbag with everything they need to start kindergarten next year. In true Kiuni fashion, she said exactly what came to mind, loud enough for everyone to hear. Throughout the whole ceremony she screamed, “I’m hungry.” It changed only when we began to pass out the bookbags when she screamed, “I’m hungry and I want a bookbag!!”
At the end of the ceremony the moms all hurried into the school and helped pass out the refreshments they had made. There were fruit cups, sandwiches, slices of cheese, hot dog bites, and crackers along with every flavor of juice! It was an amazing celebration and a great ending to a special year. As I talk about the graduation with various different people, I tell them, the thing I loved the most about graduation, is that I did nothing! It sounds weird to say that but it is the truth. It will be hard for me to leave in July but easier knowing the moms have truly made this their school for their children. They are grateful for what they have and know that it is their own!