Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Graduation in a Time of Lent

by Raul Agner

(Editorial written for the March 2009 issue of the Adamson News)

That the graduation rites for this second semester of school year 2008-2009 falls within Christendom’s holiest week is a coincidence replete with symbolism.
Those who went through the crucible of college education know that earning a degree is no walk in the park. It is in fact a kind of agony of the body, mind and soul that the student has to go through, often peaking in a crucifixion of sorts when the going gets really, really rough. Exams, projects, theses, numerous requirements, terror teachers, you name it, they bring in all sorts of pain – including that which causes parents’ wallets to go anorexic. Thus not a few fail to reach the finish line, like runners that burn out along the way, mainly because of financial problems; which should make those who succeed feel fortunate and grateful that their dreams have been attained.
Graduation, therefore, is some kind of resurrection, a glorious moment. Not that anybody has died while pursuing a degree but there are countless tales of difficult struggles in the course of getting hold of that much-coveted diploma. We have heard of a successful businesswoman who had only a pair of shoes to wear through college. Then there’s the respected engineer who in college had only four hours of sleep as he juggled the obligations of work and study. Indeed graduation becomes sweeter if it bears the stigmata of sacrifice. It can bring one advantageous dividends in the world of work and career building later.
But failure to finish a degree doesn’t necessarily mean failure in life. Because an Adamson education is not only an exercise in knowledge acquisition but also a total package that includes value and spiritual formation, even those who spent only some years in the university internalize it. Luisita Zarsadias Esmao, who finished only three years of her accounting course, is a case in point. Her being at the forefront today of the farmers’ struggle for the extension of CARP shows that the Vincentian value of social responsibility runs alive in her veins. That and her other advocacies have landed her a revered place in the Ten Outstanding Women of the Philippines (BAYI) awards.
Still, completing a course and graduating from college is the ideal thing to achieve. The university knows this enough that it always seeks ways to ease the difficulty of acquiring a college degree. For one, many kinds of scholarships are made available. There are also discounts for the taking, like the Alumnus’ Child and the Siblings discounts. But most of all, at a time when the economic crisis comes foisted on everyone like a heavy cross to bear, the University extends a Cyrenean hand – by not increasing its tuition fee.
And so, to those who will be graduating on April 6, we extend our most heartfelt congratulations. You have beaten the odds, you have hurdled the challenges and you deserve your triumphant moment. Celebrate and enjoy to the max.
But please remember that as you move further up your journey to a brighter future and begin reaping the fruits of your labor, it might be good to look back and reflect that those who are left behind are still in struggle mode. Helping them in any way might be a Lenten value that can lead them to their own graduation, nay, resurrection.
Happy Graduation, Happy Easter!

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