On June 13, we held a graduation ceremony for our 20 CCAs. After giving so much of themselves to their respective sites and students, this day was to celebrate the work they have completed over the past school year (or two years for our two peer leaders!).
All weeks are busy for CCAs, but the weeks leading up to graduation felt especially so. They were filled with checking students’ grades, attending classes, checking in with teachers – doing everything to ensure their students were on track to move up a grade or graduate. There were field trips, end of the year parties, and graduations. What I’m saying is it didn’t seem like CCAs had a quiet moment to reflect on the end of their chapters with Promise Corps. Even as this day came, I’m sure CCAs’ minds were thinking about their two final days at school, which would be filled with more graduations and goodbyes with their beloved students.
We heard from a member of the community regarding the importance of volunteerism and the role our CCAs have had in West Philadelphia over the past year(s), and will continue to have no matter where they choose to go. This weight of this role was magnified when members took the AmeriCorps pledge, when they stated (among other things) that, “Faced with apathy, I will take action. Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.” Our members have lived out these ideals in their work as CCAs. It is not always easy to get students to buy into the program or trust our members, but CCAs were creative in taking action to address this. They found common ground with their students, as well as teachers, school staff, and partner organizations. They fostered relationships that allowed them to dig deeper and support students beyond the surface level.
Awards were given to members who dedicated the most hours of service to the program, coached the most students through the program, and those who quietly led by example.
Despite the multitude of events and emotions leading up to and surrounding this day, graduation did allow for a beautiful moment that prompted members to reflect on the journey they have had as CCAs. Two members were elected by their peers to speak on behalf of the twenty CCAs, and they offered accounts of where they started, where they are now, how they got here, and what they feel looking forward. In the grand scheme of things, ten months is a very short time, but because of the great amount of time and effort members put forth during such a short time frame, these ten months can have a profound effect on not only one’s future career path, but their personal values and mindset as well.
In their speech, a tone of optimism and humility was ever-present, with an emphasis placed on important relationships cultivated in their time as CCAs. The two speakers closed with a beautiful quotation that was reassuring to CCAs – some of whom know what their next move was, and still some who are not sure, “There is no straight path from your seat today to where you are going… Your career and your life will have stops and starts and zigs and zags. Don’t stress out about the white space – the path you can’t draw – because therein lies both the surprises and the opportunities.”