In case you haven’t noticed it’s graduation season. You may only miss it if you’re living under a rock some place in Jupiter, lol! Or the pandemic has eroded all sense of time for you; that’s very understandable. High Schools and colleges in North America (USA is in North America; there are 3 other countries) typically hold their graduation ceremonies between the month of May and June.
Congratulations Class of 2021!!
For those of us who have relations living in North America, we may have attended one such ceremony or heard about or seen a cousin who has graduated from an American high school or university. They all take this one photo which we all must have seen before – in a blue photo frame with the graduate donning their academic gown and mortarboard, clutching on to their rolled certificate and smiling broadly at you in this iconic photo.
In Ghana, there are a number of schools that run international curriculum (e.g. Cambridge, IGCSE, IB, etc) and also hold similar graduation ceremonies right here too. I have been lucky enough to attend the graduation ceremonies of many of nieces, nephews and friends and thought to share some of the jargons I picked and their meanings – hoping you would like to know.
Attendance – Attendance (to classes) is more important before the graduation itself. You are expected to attend all (or most) of your classes in order to graduate. Remember the roll call that teachers go through? It is to ensure that you did turn up or showed up during class – if you do not attend your classes, be it a class you enjoy or not, you won’t even have the option of attending graduation. There’s an old saying that: Half of life is just showing up.
Ceremony – This tends to be the highlight of the graduation; it’s all about the ceremony, which has specific traditions and customs. For instance graduates must wear a robe, put on an unusual cap (called a mortarboard), and receive their certificate in front of an audience. There’s the innumerable photo opportunities and shoots and the countless parties.
Commencement – I always wondered what it meant; I know what the word means but why is it called that? I gathered that the sense of graduation as a new beginning is why a graduation ceremony is also known as commencement. Isn’t that something?
Congratulations – The one word most commonly heard at graduations. It just so happens to be the happiest word in the English vocabulary.
Honour – Students who consistently make really good grades stay on the honor roll, which usually leads to ‘graduating with honours’. There are honors classes in college (university) and getting into any such class is an honor. So, when a student is described as an ‘honour student’, you know what that means now, yes?
Principal – The host (or Master of Ceremonies- MC) of a graduation ceremony is usually the Principal: one in charge of the school. In other schools or situations, they may be called the Headteacher or Head of School. In the university, they are called the Chancellor.
Valedictorian – When a student graduates with honours, that is a big deal. Yet, there’s an even greater honour to aspire to: the valedictorian. This is the student with the best grades in the whole school. The valedictorian is usually asked to give a speech during commencement on behalf of their colleague-graduates: this speech can sometimes be called a valedictory address. Now, if your college (or university) application can boast of this achievement, you know you’re halfway there.
The saying, “When one door closes, another door opens”, springs to mind anytime I attend a graduation ceremony or think of the season. Whilst graduating from high school or university is about the end of that journey, it also means another door has just been opened for the graduates – either college or the job market.
Join me in shouting, Congratulations!! to all the graduates of 2021 on finishing school and giving me content for this column. Both took effort…and research.