Monday, May 23, 2016

Commencement: May 26, 2006

Three days back, we held our Westbury Christian graduation, 2016. I penned the following ten years ago on the night of our 2006 WCS commencement. The names have changed as have the faces. A good number of the 2015 grads were in attendance Friday. Life is a circle and graduation is part of the arc. This was first posted on May 26, 2006.

I just returned home from graduation. High school commencement exercises at Westbury Christian School are unlike those at any other institution I have been associated with. We have just the right blend of solemnity and silliness, laughter and tears, wisdom and melancholy. One of the selling points for my moving to Houston in 1998 was attending graduation the evening before I interviewed. It was, and is, a moving experience for the sixty plus seniors, their teachers and administrators, and most importantly, their families. Most of you weren't in attendance so I thought I might add a little insight on the young people wearing the blue robes and matching mortar boards. You could read their names off some list but that means little more than syllables, although sometimes hard to pronounce syllables:

Amber Glenn and Meggan Hill, who played on my middle school basketball team and walked beside me in dusty villages in Honduras.

Michael Francois, who unfailingly brought beads to take to the kids in those dusty Honduran villages.

Bernadette Lockhart, who came to us unexpectedly after Katrina flattened her hometown of New Orleans.

Jordan Hall, who was transformed from a squirrelly freshman to be crowned MR. WCS, our school's highest honor, as voted by his teachers.

Nahum Shibeshi, who asked me as an eighth grader to tell him whenever he was messing up. 

Tim Smith, who put on his Lord in baptism, and a dead ringer for Jimmy Chitwood. (Hoosiers)

Lindsey Calder, valedictorian, who improved my life by simply suggesting I wear gloves when I lift weights.

Tyrone Willis, who almost died in his eighth grade year from a sinus infection that raged out of control.

Chris King, whose father, Randy, was my brother's college roommate and stood with me as Dave married Sally.

Meg George, 6'2", proud of it, and not afraid to wear heels or use her brilliant mind.

Paola Estrada, the most intellectual student I know in TWO different languages.

Jonathan Miller, who I was honored to witness receiving his coveted Eagle Scout.

Kayla Stroh, whose husband-to-be I already know the identity of- "A LUCKY GUY!"

Jennifer Mills, a gifted basketball bookkeeper who is the world's greatest hero to third grader Avery Braun.

Jeffrey Martin, who shared a stage with me in a tux as I preached the wedding of his sister, Shara, and the legendary Russell Carr.

Brandon Smith, a totally unflappable spirit whose father, Wendle, is the chairman of our board of directors.

Hoang Dao, from Vietnam, whose locker stood next to my class and shook my hand, addressing me as "Sir" every time I saw him.

Campbell Jernigan, whose lipstick-eyeshadow-perfume-nail polish became our bonus question daily in her sophomore Bible class.

William Crouch, who appeared in a Reebok commercial with NBA star Yao Ming and whose face will subsequently be seen by one billion people in China.

And finally, my four senior aides this year:
Brandon Greene, the object of countless junior high girl crushes, who shook off adversity to calmly knock down THE SHOT of the year for our state champion basketball team.

Benedicte Magali Ilana Ingeborg Matuszczak, AKA Bouba, from France/Germany, whose name covered a page and fought off injuries to reach the state tennis tournament as senior.

Beverly McDonald, THE VOICE of WCS, who last night flawlessly nailed "Wind Beneath My Wings," transforming it from a song I detested to one of my all-time favorites.

Viridiana Maldonado, La Bonita to our WCS 1st graders, who enjoyed a cult-like status in the class of Mrs. Semanek and Mrs. Zamora, a true legend of our elementary school for her kindness with the little ones.

There were forty more, each with their own unique stories and biographies. Teaching at a small Christian school mandates that teachers interact with the kids on a different level than at big places. The kids unfailingly say we change their lives; they have it backwards. My life is rewritten each year from August through May, courtesy of the young people God directs into our path. These sixty-four are no longer seniors; they are graduates. They have shed the title of students and now will be entered into the larger category of alumni. They can change the world. Let me rephrase that. They HAVE to change the world. Godspeed to the Westbury Christian School of 2006.

Applicable quote of the day:
"The fireworks begin today. Each diploma is a lighted match. Each one of you is a fuse."
Edward Koch

God bless,
oach Hawley/Steve
Luke 18:1

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Jon said...

that graduation aounded awesome!!!!!!! said...

A very touching tribute!

JKC said...

Graduation certainly is a milestone in a graduate's life, and I know that your students are thankful for what you have done to prepare them for the next phase of their lives. This truly was a very touching blog.

Lauren said...

graduation 2006 sounds like it was a memorable one for all at wcs...wish i could have been there ;)

Steve Hawley said...

Lauren, me too. If you haven't yet, read the entry from May 10, entitled "Pomp And Circumstance." You are my hero.