We are a little different than most high schools in that we hold mid-year graduations at the end of the first semester which falls around this time in mid-January. There are students who just have a few credits to make up at the beginning of the year and it doesn't make sense for them to have to endure the whole year of school if they've completed all of the requirements.
It’s usually a very emotional time for everyone involved, students and staff alike. As we’re a boarding school for Native American teenagers, many of the students come to live with us during their freshman year and remain throughout their four years. We become a community of folks who laugh, cry, love and discover life together. For many of the kids, the staff and other students at the school are the closest thing they've ever known to being a part of a functional family. A lot of their backgrounds include legacies of drug and alcohol abuse. Often kids are raised by aunts and uncles or grandparents because parents are not able to. The American Indian community in general experiences a great deal of loss due to suicide, substance abuse and accidental deaths.
It’s with mixed emotions then that we see these kids head out to their future. We know they need to go find their way in the world as adults and to go on to discover life and their purpose. I need to cling to the verse in Jeremiah 29:11 that says, “For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” As much as I love these students as I do my own children, I have trust that God cares for them even more and He has amazing plans for each of their lives. I must trust that He will continue to make Himself known to each one of them. And I need to trust that in following God, their lives will be protected and not end in disaster which is so often the case for this segment of society.
It’s been as much a test of my own faith as it has been for the students I serve.