“Send us now into the world in peace; and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart.” – The Book of Common Prayer
On Thursday, May 21st, 2020 at 10am, St. James held a special graduation ceremony for its fifth graders. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the school administration chose to host a virtual graduation with a “drive by” presentation of candidates outside of the school on Convention and Fourth Street downtown. Twenty-six graduates and their families joined the faculty and staff in watching a pre-recorded video ceremony for all to enjoy together. The ceremony followed a traditional prayer service format from the Book of Common Prayer, with readings, songs, and prayers led by teachers and fifth grade students. Interim Head of School Michael Kuhn gave a homily focusing on the bittersweet emotions at graduation and the idea of ascension.
At the end of the ceremony, each student was driven by family members through the school’s carpool route one last time, to a stopping point near Bishops Hall. Rector Chris Duncan led each student out of the car down the sidewalk to receive a graduation certificate and a gift from the school, and to take a picture. Then, students returned to their cars and rode with their families to park in the church parking lot to wait until all graduates were called.
St. James Episcopal Day School ends in 5th grade, making this graduation ceremony and the fifth grade year particularly important milestones in the life of the school. Typically the fifth graders take a class trip to Houston in the spring before graduation, but this year’s trip had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The fifth grade class raised money for their trip throughout the year through fundraisers including monthly donut and pizza days and a family bingo night in the fall. Although they were sad to miss their class’s trip, this year’s students opted to donate of the money they’d raised to the school by funding three special gifts: a sun sail over one of the outdoor play areas at school, two refillable water bottle stations, and painted inspirational messages on a stairwell in Werlein Hall. Thus, the Class of 2020 will be remembered not only for their intellect, their friendships, and their unusual graduation ceremony; they will also be remembered for the incredible generosity and patience they showed their school. The students will be missed by their younger classmates along with the faculty and staff at St. James, but we all look forward to witnessing the great things they do in middle school and beyond.