“It was VERY hard to keep a dry eye on Saturday,” said Visitors Coordinator Steve Cook of the high school and adult literacy graduation ceremonies held on Saturday, November 23. Our staff and volunteers worked hard to transform our comedor (cafeteria) into a splendid graduation hall decked out with streamers, fragrant flowers, banners, and bright balloons. The high school graduation was in the morning and a buzzing crowd of parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends filled our seating beyond capacity. It was an emotional moment when the high school students marched through the balloon arch and down the center aisle with a Guatemalan flag to the cheers of the assembly. This year we have 14 students earning their high school degrees and going on to seek higher education and professional careers.

                Most of these students are the first in their families to earn a high school degree and those who spoke before the gathering exuded great pride and thankfulness for their achievement.  Graduate Jeimy Monterroso, who started with Safe Passage 12 years ago, spoke about how she missed our founder Hanley Denning, her gratefulness to Hanley, and her thankfulness for this opportunity to study. Graduate Ana Sofia's mother took the stage and beamed with pride as she expressed her joy and pride in her daughter’s success.

                A particularly emotional moment occurred when the graduates passed the Guatemalan flag to all the high school seniors sitting in the first row, encouraging them to persevere towards their graduation next year and be role models for the younger grades. The ceremony was followed by a formal dance where students paired with their significant others, parents, brothers and sisters to dance in celebration. Next they sat down to a meal and we began to prepare for the adult literacy graduates arriving in the afternoon.

                Soon the hall filled again with family and friends as 15 robed adult literacy students marched proudly through the arch and took the stage to receive their diplomas. Don Jairo, one of the fathers earning his degree, spoke passionately about his gratefulness to the staff and volunteers at Safe Passage who put in extra hours and taught classes in the evenings to accommodate the fathers’ work schedules. Eyes filled with joyful tears when Mirna Lazaro, an adult literacy graduate, received a graduation ring from her 2 year-old nephew who ran proudly up the aisle. Another girl in second grade watched her dad get his diploma and her smile lit up the room. The pride, joy and thankfulness were palpable at graduation. It’s hard for those outside the community to appreciate how much this moment means to the students and  parents earning their degrees but the tears, joy and laughter come through in the graduation photos that you can view here on Facebook. Thank you very much for all you do as Safe Passage supporters to make this day possible!