That was the victory cry at the De La Salle Middle School graduation ceremony over the weekend at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, located in the historic Ville Neighborhood in St. Louis. As a board member, my husband invited me to join him in celebrating this very significant achievement in the lives of a little more than a dozen youths who overcame challenges such as poverty, low expectations and lack of strong role models to achieve their middle school education.
The experience was slightly different from what I remember at my own 8th grade graduation all those years ago…certainly more lively and a lot more tears from both teachers and family. It was also evident that education was not taken for granted here: every single boy and girl was moving on to a local high school, something proudly lifted up for each graduate in both the program and ceremony.
However, there was one aspect of the evening that really stood out for me. It was what the program called “Thank you to Mothers.” It was the point in the celebration where students took a moment to give their mothers a bright yellow long stemmed carnation. And that’s when I started tearing up…seeing the look on each woman’s face as her child proudly found them in the crowd was truly a privilege.
What it must feel like to do right by your child…to see him work hard to get his diploma, enjoying his achievements and being motivated to go even higher. Or to see your young daughter making friends, learning life-long skills and choosing a life that could quite possibly be better than your own. Don’t we all want that for our kids?
I also wondered how each mother came to make such an insightful decision to stay engaged in her child’s schooling for better success, despite the educational and economical challenges she may be facing. Who was her mentor? What supports did she have along the way? I wondered if she heard or even benefited from Parents as Teachers.
Like the staff and administration at De La Salle, Parents as Teachers encourages families to be engaged in every aspect of their child’s life. Whether the focus is on academics or other life successes, parents are what make the victory of any achievement meaningful for their child.
That was pretty evident as the graduate’s eagerly sought out their mothers that night. Each and every carnation held a wealth of meaning: thanks, mom, for not letting me slip through the cracks. Thanks for helping me be somebody!