A graduation is a symbol of change, and moving onto new adventures. It opens a new door of opportunity for students. Rather than the end of one stage in a student’s life, a graduation signifies the beginning of the next. It is a time to appreciate the journey and all the accomplishments a student has made, with all the people who have been there through it all. It is important to properly celebrate graduates to honor their achievements, reflect on their future journey, and share the excitement and happiness of graduating with their peers, families, and friends.
How Schools Can Encourage Student Attendance at Graduation
Many students may say they would rather sleep in, that a graduation ceremony is pointless, or that they don’t care about it. However, graduation is more than just throwing a cap in the air, putting on a cap and gown, and getting a piece of paper. It is important for schools to emphasize to students that graduation is about celebrating all your achievements with the important people that supported you throughout your journey. It is a special gift for not only the students, but for family and friends who have supported the students financially and emotionally throughout the years.
When schools are planning a graduation ceremony, the first thing they should consider is the actual graduation audience. All graduating classes are different, and this is not just looking at the size of the class and their guests. It is important to look at if any students or family members are deaf or hard of hearing, have trouble walking, or any other disabilities. Therefore schools can accommodate by creating an inclusive environment with a sign language interpreter or a jumbo screen with captions to give greater visibility, for example.
Another factor for schools to consider is if there are any guests that speak other languages. If so, captions should be provided in the other language so that everyone can be a part of the experience. This also includes any important religious or cultural traditions like the way the student decides to dress, as they may want to wear a non-traditional graduation attire in order to honor their achievements with their culture. If students see that schools are trying to meet their families’ needs, they may feel more included and welcomed at their graduation ceremony.
Graduation ceremonies can be a long and boring process in the eyes of young students. Including fun special events or interactive elements to the ceremony could counteract this. For example, instead of only recognizing the awards upon the highest academic achieving students, schools can have some student-nominated awards or superlatives to include everyone in a fun, inclusive way. This may encourage more students to attend graduation, as they want to be recognized as well. If they think that only the high honors students or the valedictorian are going to be recognized, they may not have the same desire to attend.
Additionally, not everyone who played a significant part in a student’s success will have the accessibility to attend the graduation ceremony. Therefore, schools should also live video stream the ceremony in order for faraway family and friends to celebrate with the students. In order to make the ceremony meaningful and memorable for the students, everyone who has made an impact on the student should be able to attend the graduation, in person or virtually. If students know that their family and friends who cannot attend in person can still attend virtually, this will motivate them more to attend the ceremony.
How Schools Can Properly Celebrate Graduates
One of the most important parts of graduation is the celebration of the accomplishments of the students. Graduates have worked hard to get to where they are, and it is important for their accomplishments to be recognized. As human beings, we are quick to point out the negatives rather than the positives. Being able to celebrate your successes will lead you to continue to want to put in the effort and do your best, therefore increasing confidence and overall mental health.
Student success is not solely defined by grades. Students often grow in many ways throughout their academic careers, including socially, emotionally, and spiritually. Every student has accomplished something big by the end of their academic journey, and that growth should be recognized. Little things make a big difference in this case, like mentioning something when their name is called or including their achievements in the yearbook or program.
Although speeches from school staff are important, the real inspiration comes from the students themselves who are taking on the next phase of their lives. To properly celebrate graduates, it is important to hear about their school years. For example, what they have learned about themselves, how they have grown, and their future plans. Student speeches at graduation ceremonies are a necessary part in making the ceremony personalized to the graduating class. It also allows for connection with peers, and to share memorable, funny, and inspirational stories. These speeches are what make the graduation special.
Lastly, graduation ceremonies should be fun! Pleasurable activities release dopamine, which leads to positivity and happiness. It also allows us to connect with others in a special way. Both positivity and connectedness are important for mental health, as they reduce cortisol levels and increase serotonin levels. The reduced cortisol and increased serotonin levels that come with having fun can also increase memory, and lead to a clearer mind.
Neolth and Celebrating Students
If you are a teacher, principal, or any part of a school team who is looking for new ways to support your students year round, Neolth is a great resource to help educate on how to prioritize student mental health and wellbeing. Neolth is a digital stress and mental health support program for students and educators. We’re on a mission to help youth stress less, build resilience, and become a part of our compassionate community. Our app helps youth when they’re feeling overwhelmed with self-guided content, personalized for your mental health journey. Give your students the gift of Neolth today - get started at neolth.com/schools.
About the Author:
Ali Green (she/her) is an Editorial Intern at Neolth, and a rising undergraduate senior at Emory University. As a student studying psychology, she found a huge passion for mental health. Upon discovering Neolth and then becoming accepted as an editorial intern, she became super excited to be able to bring awareness, education, and resources to students worldwide. She believes that it is important to create more accessible education and support around mental health issues to reduce stigmas and increase understanding. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, graphic design, and reading.