The differences between Tegucigalpa and Talanga couldn’t be greater. Tegucigalpa is thick with smog, choked with traffic, and full of people. On the other hand, Talanga is a sea of green with exotic birds singing, farm animals grazing, and vistas that show the natural beauty of Honduras. El Hogar’s Agricultural School, which is in Talanga, provided an unforgettable backdrop for the first of this week’s graduation ceremonies.
Pulling into the school after the long drive, we could immediately see the preparations that had been made. Streamers and graduation signs were hung throughout the open-air pavilion as chairs sat on the sawdust floor awaiting the friends, family members, and sponsors of the students who were being honored.
After official graduation photos were taken, it was time for the ceremony to begin. The graduates – dressed up with ties and wearing their blue gowns and caps – made their way up the aisle to their seats of honor at the front. Yony Aguilera, Director of the Agricultural School, and the Rev. Matthew Engleby, Executive Director of El Hogar in Honduras, both spoke and honored the graduates for their hard work over the years to reach this day.
For these students, this marks a turning point in their lives. This is when they have the chance to use the skills they’ve gained in animal care and crop production outside of El Hogar. As with each graduation, you could see an array of emotions on the faces of the graduates as they came to the realization that their lives were about to enter a new phase. But as the ceremony ended and the diplomas were distributed, all of their expressions turned to those of joy and excitement.
As the last of the graduates filed down the aisle, the ceremony came to an end and everyone in the audience rushed to congratulate their special honoree. This is one of the parts of the entire day that brings tears to my eyes. Families and friends were hugging the graduates with smiles on their faces and tears falling down their cheeks.
For many of these families, these graduates represent the first family members to graduate from school. As I watched each of them leave with their families, I thought about the hope and promise that they carried with them. Their lives – like each of us – will be filled with twists and turns, but they’ve received skills and values to help them handle them. They now can teach the skills they’ve learned to their families and communities. That’s how they bring positive change and break the cycle of poverty.
Tomorrow, we celebrate graduation at El Hogar’s Technical Institute in the Amarateca Valley.