Graduation ceremonies in Liberia are joyous, celebratory occasions. Those at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School are no exception. Whether it be the graduation of kindergarteners or ninth-graders, the day is highlighted by inspirational speeches, special awards, and well-rehearsed songs that give thanks to God. The day is bright from the attendees colorful African lapas, the traditional clothes worn for celebrations.
It was standing-room-only in a packed St. Michael the Archangel Chapel as many happy parents and family members came out in support of their children. Staying true to our motto—“GOD-EDUCATION-WORK”—we began the day with Holy Mass, celebrated by our friend and spiritual benefactor, Father Charles Boyce, from Immaculate Conception Parish (the parish that we belong to). Father inspired us during his homily as he urged the graduates to use the tools and knowledge they have acquired for a better future for Liberia.
After Mass we began the graduation program. The principal, Mr. Joseph Kulah, welcomed all to the occasion before introducing Mr. Kweh Menyen, Vice Principal for Instruction. Mr. Menyen gave a detailed report of the students’ academic performance at St. Anthony showing that our school performs at the highest level.
Following Mr. Menyen was a solo vocal performance by one of the female students. All present were touched by her effort and the song’s lyrics, sung to God: “You are too good to us.” After the song came Mr. Mark Karley, Vice Principal for Student Affairs, who gave a behavioral assessment of the student body. Various awards were given out for good behavior, and the top achiever was even given a one-year, full scholarship to St. Anthony’s! Following the awards was a skit performed by students from the eight-grade class. The overall message of the skit preached the values of honesty and transparency when interacting with friends and colleagues—an important message for Liberia!
Former Representative and current Senatorial Candidate, Mrs. Josephine Francise, was this year’s guest speaker. During her time in the Liberian House of Representatives, she worked alongside President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and was an advocate for, among other things, education, agricultural development, and women’s rights. Her speech focused on urging the students to discern exactly what kind of Liberia they wanted and were willing to work for. She was a very charismatic speaker and surely left a lasting impression on the student body.
After the guest speaker, it was finally time to hand out the graduation certificates! Mr. Kulah, Fr. Charles, and our beloved director, Mr. John Raymond Alpha, all took turns in shaking the hands of both the kindergarteners and ninth-graders alike. Many happy parents looked on as their children received acknowledgment for an academic job well done!
The teachers themselves then proceeded out from the back of the chapel while singing jubilantly. Although they received a hearty round of applause from all in attendance, they did this more as a show of their own thanks to the school and of their passion for teaching- we have awesome teachers!
Finally, in closing, Mr. Alpha addressed all those in attendance. He began by sincerely thanking Franciscan Works, noting that nothing that just took place would have been possible without the generosity and hard work of the organization and its donors and sponsors. He then went on to encourage the students, saying it would be extremely regrettable if the students did not share with their countrymen (and humanity in general) the knowledge and values they had acquired while attending St. Anthony’s. He noted that we give the greatest glory to God when serving our fellow brothers and sisters.
All in all, it was a day that marked success: success for the students, for Liberia Mission, and, most especially, for the Gospel message. As the students and their families departed for various graduation parties, the teachers and school administration convened one more time to shake each other’s hands and congratulate each other on a job well done. They would then leave for their one month vacation, a well-deserved break that would re-energize and prepare them for the upcoming school year, when the hard work would begin again!