One of the thoughts that was running through my mind and heart throughout the graduation ceremony was, "I am so proud of these students, and so proud of who they have become and how they have grown." Rubbing shoulders with these students and walking through life with them has been such a blessing. I am proud of the growth I have seen in them. They have matured; physically, mentally, spiritually, socially. They are continuing to grow, and it is a beautiful thing. I have worked a lot with this particular group of students in many different areas of life. As I watched the students walk across the stage I was blessed to be able to know them all personally, and to be proud of who they have become.
When I first stepped into the role of an RA five years ago, the two guys pictured above were in 8th grade and living on my hall. I have known them for the past five years and have absolutely loved getting to know them and spend so much time with them. Without a doubt, one of the highlights of this year for me, was being able to close this chapter with them. I am proud of them, and the work they have put forth in order to graduate. These two students are extremely special to me. Living with them for three years was such an incredible thing.
|Here you can see the same two guys five years ago.|
|Hanging out in my room five years ago.|
Another phrase I kept pondering during the graduation ceremony was, "I am so thankful to be here." Hopefully those who have kept up with my blog have caught on to the running theme that I absolutely love being here. These students are so special to me. I am grateful for the five years I have been here. No place is without challenges and difficulties, yet even with a few negatives here and there, this has been a wonderful place for me. I am grateful for the time I have spent here.
The final phrase I want to touch on that was running through my mind and heart sounds something like, "Man, it is so hard to say goodbye." Truthfully, there is no easy way to pin specific words to the heartache that comes from leaving. I have been processing the weight of sadness for many weeks now and still cannot easily write it out. I wish I could. But it seems impossible to do. So to hopefully help you understand I will share a story from graduation...
Following the ceremony those in attendance move outside to mingle. Hundreds of pictures are taken, hugs of celebration are given, and tears of sadness are shed with each goodbye. At this point in the day I was actually doing okay emotionally, I had kept it together fairly well. Then, I walked around a corner and found a rising senior coming my way. He and I were in the dorm together, and he is one of my favorite students (Okay. Maybe I'm not supposed to have "favorites" but...he definitely is at the top of the list). As he walked toward me, I physically put my hand out and said to him, "No. Not now. I'm not saying goodbye to you right now." He looked at me and simply said, "But Tommy, if not now, when?" Realizing the truth of the statement I pleaded to take a quick picture before tears streamed down my face.
So, we took one final picture, and began our goodbye. I gave him a massive hug as tears uncontrollably fell. I was his RA starting his freshmen year. One year from now he will be in cap and gown graduating. It pains me knowing I will not be around for his senior year. I will miss his laugh, his sense of humor, his awkwardness. He is one of many, many, people I have had to say goodbye to. Each one has a special place in my heart. So many people here have played massive roles in my life. This has been home for five years, and it is sad to be leaving.
The class of 2013 has graduated. They are officially alumni. Graduation was a tremendous day where I was so proud of who these students are, extremely grateful for the time we shared together, and deeply saddened to be parting ways.
|"Grub N Fun" group that came over for dinner on Thursdays.|