I felt privileged to witness the graduation ceremony of the Portage Learning and Literacy Centre last week as 25 earned their grade twelve diplomas. Another 41 students received Literacy completions.
Graduation of any kind is cause for celebration. Finishing high school the regular way is tough enough. But to go back as an adult, resharpen your pencils, and tackle it takes a special brand of courage. Adult responsibilities multiply the challenge – earning a living, keeping house, in many cases caring for children. One grad had her one-month-old baby in attendance! The class’s married couple, Tim Peters and Janine Fagnan, posed for pictures with their three little girls—mom and dad in caps and gowns.
Chantal Simard, Dean of Continuous Learning and Corporate Programs at the Winnipeg Technical College, was on hand to congratulate the grads. “Remember,” she said, “no one can ever take away your education.”
Councillor Liz Driedger brought congratulations on behalf of the City. She reminded us of the story of the two wolves that live inside us. An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
“You have fed the good wolf,” Councillor Driedger told the grads.
Indeed, the Learning Centre assists its students to feed their good wolf every day through its wide variety of programs, its committed board, dedicated staff, and priceless volunteers. But it’s the students who, in the end, must do the hard work to reach their goals. Many are the first in their family to graduate. Folks with that kind of chutzpah inspire me. I like to call them “cycle-breakers.”
The tears of some as they received congratulatory hugs from staff members were a beautiful testimony to lives invested in others. “We’re here to honour people who have struggled a lot to get where they are,” said Computer Instructor Jon Todd when he presented the Strength of Character award to Timothy Peters. “Tomorrow will bring fresh battles, but today we say ‘yahoo, bravo, well-done!’”
To all graduates of 2012, whatever the school and whatever the diploma, I add my heartfelt congratulations. May God bless you as you face the fresh battles of tomorrow, better armed and more fully equipped.