’Tis the season for graduations! Those interminable, yet joyous, celebrations that we at Salem CyberSpace get to both endure and enjoy each season. Yes, they are long and often tedious (would someone give these people lessons on how to make speeches engaging and brief?) but there is nothing in the world that can bring tears to my eyes more than when I see these long lines of young adults marching in to Sir Edward Elgar’s “March No. 1,” grinning from ear to ear and brimming with possibilities, hopes and dreams for the future. The march in as almost-grads and the march out as grads never lose their magic for me; nor does the picture-taking with grinning and proud family members and friends. One of our recent graduates said to me after his graduation, “My face hurts. I haven’t stopped grinning all day.”
For the youth of Salem CyberSpace, most are the first in their families to graduate from college. This makes the magic more potent. Parents who don’t speak English patiently sit through the endless speeches and long parade of graduates. Priceless is the word that comes to mind as I watch their faces during that one minute when their child’s name is called out and he or she walks across the stage to become the family’s first college graduate.
Every year we invite families, friends and the community to our Great Expectations event to support and applaud the high school and college graduates who are participants in our College Success Program. This event, which is both a celebration and a fundraiser, is hosted and run by the students. The emcee is a student and the speakers are students. The students are zealous hawkers of raffle tickets because they know that 100 percent of the funds raised will go to support the College Success programs for future students. It is pay it forward time, which our students take very seriously.