During almost each day of this trip, we’ve been traveling outside the city of Tegucigalpa to celebrate graduation ceremonies at El Hogar’s Agricultural School and Technical Institute. Today, we didn’t have to travel far for the last of the week’s celebrations – the Elementary School’s clausura. The clausura is a celebration for the students completing their time at the Elementary School as they prepare to enter one of El Hogar’s secondary education programs.
For those of you who have traveled to El Hogar, you know how the elementary campus is an island of calm and peace in the chaos of Tegucigalpa. This becomes immediately evident as you enter the gates from the streets. Once they close, you’re surrounded by greenery and children playing. It’s a stark contrast to the busy streets just over the walls.
We arrived and I immediately got to work taking the official graduation photos of the students. Each of them was dressed to impress – the boys in crisp white shirts with black ties and the girls in white shirts and plaid skirts. They were so excited and they asked me more than once to take silly photos of them and their friends. I had a job to do, but this day is about them and I was glad to oblige.
This year, the clausura was held inside the campus cafeteria. The walls were decorated with flowers and banners, while there was a large wooden bridge for each student to stand on as they were honored during the ceremony. The room was full of chairs and they quickly filled up with the honorees’ fellow students, family, friends, and other honored guests.
Speakers included Claudia Castro, Director of the Elementary School, the Rev. Matthew Engleby, Executive Director of El Hogar in Honduras, Liz Kinchen, Executive Director of El Hogar in North America, a representative from DINAF, which is a government agency in Honduras that looks after vulnerable children, and a former student. As with each of the speeches at the earlier graduation ceremonies, the speakers reflected on the hard work of each student and the promise they each have as they begin this next phase of their education at El Hogar.
The pride on each student’s face (along with some blushing as they had to stand in front of everyone) showed how much this day really meant to each of them. During the presentations, some of the students’ dreams were shared and they’re amazing. They want to be doctors, lawyers, and other respected professionals. They’re so proud of their accomplishments and it warms my heart to see each of them not just trying to squeak by, but reaching for the stars. But for all of their excitement, there was also a feeling of a changing dynamic among them.
Up until this point, they’ve all been on the same campus. That won’t be the case when the next school year begins. The boys will either go to the Agricultural School or the Technical Institute, while the girls enter the Virginia Sapp high school program and move to their new home in Santa Lucia. They’ll see each other at school-wide functions and campus visits, but it won’t be the same. Like those students before them and most families, they’ll still have strong connections to each other over the distance that will separate them. They’re one big El Hogar family.
I can’t believe I’m already saying this, but tomorrow I leave to return to my home in Boston. I’ll share some final thoughts about this year’s graduation tomorrow.