This year, we celebrated as 147 students achieved their goal of graduation. For many, it was an emotional celebration as they reflected on all of the obstacles that they had to overcome. As they walked down the Pathway of Dreams in their caps and gowns, their smiles signified the hope of a bright future filled with open doors.
A week of celebration and connection
Graduation Week was filled with fun activities, touching moments, inspiring speeches, and lasting memories. Common Hope had the honor of receiving 47 visitors, many of whom came to see their sponsored student graduate. Visitors also participated in a variety of activities throughout the week, including a Sponsorship Carnival on Thursday, cultural activities on Friday, and a picnic lunch followed by the graduation ceremony on Saturday.
It was truly a week of “firsts” for some who experienced Guatemala and Common Hope’s work for the first time. Many deep, personal connections were made as visitors spent time learning about our programs with staff, students, and families. Read more about our visitors’ experiences throughout the week.
Students, staff, sponsors, and family members contribute to Saturday’s graduation ceremony
For the first time, the graduation ceremony was held indoors at Common Hope’s new covered ball court. Presiding over the ceremony was Mynor Lemus, Director of New Hope, and Lys Barrios, Sponsorship Coordinator in Guatemala. The program included participation from parents, sponsors, students and staff, which served as a meaningful reminder that it takes each one to make graduation possible.
Of the 147 students who graduated, 18 were recognized as valedictorians, or abanderados. These students showed high academic merit, having a grade point average of 90% or above (A average). These students walked in the processional with the Guatemalan flag and were given special recognition at the beginning of the ceremony. Valedictorians represented students from all sites: Antigua, New Hope, San Rafael, and San Miguel Milpas Altas.
Juana Olinda García, known to many as Doña Oli, spoke on behalf of all the parents. Doña Oli and her family have been affiliated with Common Hope for 16 years, and her youngest son, Kevin, graduated this year. Doña Oli expressed her deepest gratitude to Common Hope for the support she and her family have received throughout the years:
“It is a dream come true to have all five of our children graduate with professional degrees, something that is difficult to achieve in these times, but that isn’t impossible. And that is where we see the support of Common Hope reflected, because alongside my support and that of my husband was Common Hope; alongside the effort of my children was Common Hope. Today, we can all say ‘mission accomplished!’ as we present a new group of professionals to the country.”
Dr. Steve Humbert spoke on behalf of the sponsors and congratulated all the graduates and parents. Steve took a week of Spanish classes in Antigua, and with a lot of practice and preparation, he prepared his remarks in Spanish. Steve and his wife, Lynn, first began to sponsor students in 1994 and after all these years of visiting Guatemala, he stated, “I consider Guatemala my second home, due to the hospitality extended to my family by Common Hope, its staff, and all the affiliated families.” For Steve, sponsorship “is coming home and visiting family.” In addition to being a sponsor, Steve has also led 28 dental teams of graduating dentists from the University of Minnesota, providing dental services to families in San Rafael, New Hope, and Antigua.
“For the goals and dreams of our little ones”
Every speaker at Graduation brought a different perspective and emotion to the stage. By the end of the ceremony, the room was filled with happiness, thankfulness, pride, and joy. One very special moment, came from a group of New Hope parents who wrote a song dedicated to Common Hope. It was very moving to hear such beautiful words of gratitude.
To conclude, we leave you with the translated lyrics:
Thanks be to God for this new dawn
For this new hope that has seen us grow
Before our future was grey
Today there is color and happiness
You have changed our lives
May God bless this organization
You change the world
You change my nation
Thank you sponsors, because
You make this all possible
Honesty, hard work and responsibility
For the goals and dreams of our little ones
Thank you to all of the parents who have supported their children throughout their educational journey. Thank you to the visitors who traveled from far and wide to celebrate with us. And thank you to each and every one of you who supports Common Hope.