As the summer winds on, graduation rituals take place across our island. And it’s not just for the children and young adults. It is for the whole family. Celebration time.
On Sunday, I dropped by the graduation ceremony for the Stella Maris Foundation’s Skills Training Program at the Stella Maris Pastoral Centre, alongside the Roman Catholic Church, in Kingston. The guest speaker was to be Reverend Ronald Thwaites, Minister of Education, himself a Roman Catholic deacon.
Under the whirring ceiling fans, there was a certain tension in the air. The approximately 100 graduates from inner-city communities looked nervous, and the gathered families and friends equally so. But the graduates were splendid in rich blue and gold gowns. The families also rose to the occasion. The men wore smart suits, the young men’s pants fashionably low on the hips. The women, depending on their ages, wore satin dresses and church hats and clingy dresses; and high heels that they could only walk in extremely slowly, having to balance, swaying slightly, as they stood up. The children wore white socks, frothy dresses, more satin, and hairstyles that varied in their complexity.
Minister Thwaites has himself commented on extravagant and expensive graduation ceremonies several times in the past. I agree with him that, especially in these harsh economic times, less well-off families should save some of that money for school needs, clothing, better food, family support. Perhaps in deference to this, I did not see any signs of ostentation – just people dressing up. And Jamaicans do love to dress up.
What struck me was that while I was there, I did not see one smile – not one – among the graduates as they lined up on the platform. Their expressions were serious, even sombre. But, this was an important occasion. They had all obtained certification in Data Operations, Early Childhood Education and Pre-Vocational Studies; and they had their eyes on the future. I am quite sure, however, that if I had stayed until the end smiles would have broken out – smiles of satisfaction, of hope, of achievement.
Congratulations to you all!
P.S. The faith-based organizations Stella Maris Foundation (“Doing What Love Requires”) and the St. Patrick‘s Foundation provide tremendous support, especially in the fields of health, education and youth development; and help the inner-city Kingston communities that they work in to become self-sustaining and self-reliant. Stella Maris is based in Grants Pen and St. Patrick’s in Seaview Gardens, Waterhouse, Riverton City (it also operates an old people’s home). You can find out more about them here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stella-Maris-Foundation/101852546519413 (Stella Maris Foundation Facebook page); and http://www.stpatricksfoundation.org St. Patrick’s Foundation website.
I met the two most hard-working and dedicated young men – Omar Frith from Stella Maris and Fabian Brown from St. Patrick’s – whom I have known for about twenty years now (and they still look very young to me!) and took this photo of them. They are an inspiration to many – and they certainly are to me. Meet Omar and Fabian, two Jamaicans who deserve all the accolades and awards around. Big them up!