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Graduation 2020

“We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest.” -Orison Swett Marden

This quote from Orison Swett Marden seems to embody the spirit of parents seeing their children on the day of their high school graduation. After years of hard work, time invested, sacrifices made, growth and cultivation – the feeling of a parent seeing their child in a cap and gown is indescribable.

Every year, Common Hope students, parents, staff, and sponsors come together to celebrate this incredible milestone. This year, however, presented a challenge. How do you celebrate graduation at a time of social distancing?

Virtual workshops

One of the first ways Common Hope adapted the graduation experience was by offering virtual job preparation. Every year Common Hope offers job placement workshops to its graduating class to prepare them as they enter the job market. The students were unable to physically come to Common Hope sites workshops were delivered virtually. Crafting a resume, writing a cover letter, and interviewing are core elements covered in the workshops. The goal of the workshop is to arm students with tools for them to find the job they want.

Safely honoring milestones

Common Hope was forced to think outside of the box and get creative when it came down to honoring this achievement. The organization developed a plan for students to come to the project and honor their hard work and commitment over the years.  By creating a complex schedule over three weeks and by increasing and enforcing strict health protocols, Common Hope was able to welcome graduates and families on site. In addition, through the support of transport logistics to get families to Common Hope’s sites and home again, 180 students and their parents were able to enjoy a socially distant and Covid-safe graduation event.

Once on site, students were donned a cap and gown and presented their personal brick – soon to be added to the Pathway of Dreams. Once dressed in their graduation regalia, the graduate and their parents enjoyed a “brief photo session.” Students wrote gratitude letters to honor their parents and read them aloud as their parents looked on proudly. Each student finished their day with a gift, including a printed photograph of them in their cap and gown, a branded portfolio, and a 2020 Common Hope Class Pin (see photo).

An innovative sponsor experience

During this out of the ordinary year, Common Hope celebrated sponsors of graduates and their role as well! Sponsors were invited to participate in the GRADUATE | SPONSOR SALUTE. The Salute included a video exchange with graduating students, a zoom series to go deeper in the journey of graduates, and a gift to recognize their support. Thirty-eight sponsors chose to be part of the Salute. When graduates of participating sponsors came to the site for their brief photo session, they also received a video from their sponsor, congratulating them on their achievement. The graduate then recorded a video – which was translated in real time – and sent to each sponsor. The messages between sponsor and student were uplifting, encouraging, and emotional.

New seeds to be planted and bloom

As 2020 is coming to a close, these 180 students are inspiring! Graduating despite the odds, they are equipped with the necessary tools and skills to secure a job in the formal sector and end the cycle of poverty!


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