Last week, Portsmouth Christian Academy’s Upper School held a graduation ceremony to honor its International graduates of the Class of 2021. The event was hosted over Zoom for family and friends overseas to attend.
To open, a speech was given by Class of 2021 salutatorian Hans Xu. Xu discussed how his journey of how he overcame and adapted from challenges posed by COVID. Through the difficulty of the pandemic, obstacles became blessings which allowed him to further engage with the PCA community and culture in America. He encouraged his classmates to likewise take this adaptability with them as they embarked on to their next chapters. You can listen to his address here.
Staff and faculty then took turns recognizing each of the seven graduates. Teachers made remarks on students’ accomplishments and honored their diligence and hard work. They discussed how students, through the challenges posed by COVID and virtual learning, some even joining labs and dissections, live from overseas. Teachers shared anecdotes highlighting each graduate’s character, discussing their engagement in class, their thoughtful input through Chinese illustrations, or the generosity and kindness they observed from students’ actions.
Each of the remarks was translated by now graduated senior Simon Gu.
After the seven students received blessings, graduate Ethan Liu took a moment to offer his thanks and share a poem by Li Bai:
In my golden cup, pure wine worth ten thousand a pint;
on a jade plate, fine food worth ten thousand coins.
I stop drinking and put down my chopsticks, unable to eat,
draw my sword to dance, look anxiously in all directions.
I want to cross the Yellow River, but ice blocks my way;
I want to climb Mount Taihang, but snow fills the sky.
In idleness I drop a hook into the azure creek,
suddenly I’m back in my boat, dreaming of distant places.
Traveling is hard!
Traveling is hard!
So many forks in the road–
which one to take?
A great enterprise must find the right moment;
I hoist my sail into the clouds and cross the mighty ocean.
Carol Wu (Qingyun Wu), a distinguished alumnus and valedictorian of the Class of 2019, then had a short address to the graduates. As she was unable to attend due to quarantine, her speech was read by International Admissions Counselor Brianna Young. She encouraged the graduates, saying, “do not be afraid to ask for help.” She reminded graduates not to be discouraged wherever they went, as the PCA community would always be a home that they could return to.
To close, International Student Liaison and ELL Teacher, Caroline Hutton, thanked parents and teachers and offered a prayer to close the ceremony. Hutton lifted up each student by the name. Following this, she said, “We know they have other names, beautiful names chosen by their parents and grandparents in hopes that they will grow into its significance. Today we are giving them yet another name, that is ‘Alumni’ of Portsmouth Christian Academy.”
Extending a benediction, she said, “May they go into the world now knowing they bear that name, but knowing also, as Hans said so beautifully in his speech, that, ‘they are free to choose the road that they walk down’. They are free to choose the name they want to go by. Help them in their choices. Help them know that their truest name is the one you give them, the one that says you are their beloved children.”
As the ceremony ended, the camera panned around the room to the Upper School staff and faculty who applauded the international graduates on completing their high school diploma, even in the face of challenges the year presented.