A Ceremony of Symbolism and Sincerity

by Melissa T., Concordia Applied Journalism

Concordia graduation regalia is based on traditional Chinese designs.  (image: Melissa T., Concordia Applied Journalism)

Concordia graduation regalia is based on traditional Chinese designs. (image: Melissa T., Concordia Applied Journalism)

Every single year High School seniors dress in caps and gowns and walks across a brightly lit stage to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance. Has this annual ritual, symbolizing passage into adult life, lost any of its significance over 20 repetitions at Concordia?  Certainly not, says High School Principal Dr. Schuster.

 

“We try to honor our Christian values by carrying in a cross as the students walk down the aisle and up onto the stage,” says Dr. Schuster. “We also try to honor the government and the country we live in because without their support we would have never been able to be here. We do this by designing our gowns after traditional Chinese dressings.”

 

When asked about the symbolism at the heart of graduation, he states that the students, “are passing onto adulthood and taking the values that Concordia has taught them with them for the rest of their lives. It’s a celebration for them, as they have acquired the skills they need to accomplish their goals and create a successful life for themselves.”

 

Capturing special moments is a critical job for Concordia’s official photographer.  (image: Kirk Hawkins, Concordia International School Shanghai)

Capturing special moments is a critical job for Concordia’s official photographer. (image: Kirk Hawkins, Concordia International School Shanghai)

“It’s also for their parents,” adds Dr. Schuster, describing the event as a celebration, “that they were able to raise and guide their children to this point in their life. Also, it’s for the teachers because with the handing of the diploma, students are empowered on to accomplish their dreams.”

 

One expression of how much Concordia’s graduating class is valued is seen in the amount of photography that happens on the special day.

 

Mr. Hawkins, Concordia’s official photographer, takes each individual graduation photo and also archives images for marketing purposes. He describes what he looks for in an ideal photo and how he captures the perfect moment. “During Graduation, I look for students that are engaged in the moment. I’m looking for emotions during the speeches -- reactions to what each speaker is saying. Some students discuss the moment with their friends next to them. I try to capture that. The excitement of throwing the cap at the end. The look of accomplishment as they leave the stage. Looking for students who are making eye contact with their family in the audience.”

 

Mr. Hawkins seeks the raw emotional moments that students and parents alike are feeling during the graduation ceremony in order to snap the perfect candid image.

 

Like many ceremonies worldwide, The Pomp and Circumstance Marches, by Sir Edward Elgar, are a staple when it comes to music selection for the graduation ceremony. In addition to this timeless classic, music teacher Mrs. Ideker talks about the very emotional song the school Chamber Choir sings.

 

 “Usually, the song is sung by the Chamber choir which are mostly seniors and juniors and they are typically very close. When you note a part of your group is leaving it's emotional it begins to mean more as you sing it more. I think it is very personal to the choir as they have friends are leaving. This song means that the friendships and the relationships we have are meaningful.”

School color meets traditional design elements in graduation wear.  (image: Melissa T., Concordia Applied Journalism)

School color meets traditional design elements in graduation wear. (image: Melissa T., Concordia Applied Journalism)

 

As the Seniors come down to sing their last song as a high school student, you can feel the emotion in the graduation hall as emotion infuses every word. “I’m always careful when we rehearse it for the first time and they get all teary eyed. And then they take the time to learn and look at the lyrics. People tend to cry the first time we rehearse because we know what it means. It’s the final goodbye.”

 

As the graduation ceremony approaches for our community, may we take time to reflect on how much hard work goes into the preparations. From academic and emotional investment in sons, daughters and students, to capturing the moment in images, to heartfelt music that appropriately matches the auspiciousness of the day, the symbolism behind each and every element adds up to one final sincere “goodbye” to our  beloved graduating class.