It’s hard to remember a time when it was safe to gather in groups, to exchange hugs and well wishes, face-to-face. But in early March of this year, before the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, WISER’s campus was alive with celebration.
In honor of the class of 2019 – a class as remarkable and resilient as the classes before them and behind them – we couldn’t let their graduation go uncelebrated by our global community.
The preparations for the festivities back in March began weeks in advance, as younger WISER students choreographed dances and readied the campus to receive nearly 200 visitors. When Graduation Day arrived, the girls were up early, practicing their moves and making last-minute touches around WISER.
As the Class of 2019 gathered at their alma mater to prepare for their ceremony, dressed to the nines and full of happy anticipation, they made time to catch up with each other, take photos, and, most importantly, have a quick dance party!
The ceremony began with the sounds of the marching band from the local boys’ secondary school as graduates, families, local supporters, students, and guests took their seats. Then began the speeches and music planned to honor the graduates, including a special dance by the Science and Engineering Club.
WISER supporters from Muhuru Bay filled nearly every seat, making the remarks of the community’s first ever female Chief, Chief Guest Flora, ring more true than ever: “This institution here in Muhuru does not just think about its own welfare. It is thinking about community welfare and keeping the power of the girl in mind. And I salute this mindset!”
The principal of Winjo Secondary School followed: “Education is power and WISER is the place that empowers girls. When you’re talking about the number of girls here who are changing industries all over the country, then you are talking about girls who change Muhuru and girls who will, indeed, change Kenya.”
That much was clear from the lineup of alumni who spoke just before the graduates were announced. Young women who had sat in the same seats as the class of 2019, including WISER alum and WISER teacher, Everline, offered remarks to this incredible group of grads.
Finally, it was time for the graduates to be announced. After all the years of study and preparation–the hours in extra tutoring sessions, the meals in the dining hall, the nervous moments before exams, the joy of accomplishing a goal that sometimes seemed far away–there is still nothing quite like hearing your name be called by Teacher Kennedy, and shaking Madame Dorcas’s hand.
Madame Dorcas’s speech following the conferring of diplomas was poignant, and the WISER Class of 2019 waited to greet their families and friends as new graduates.
“Now I want to speak to the community – to thank you. Because we did this together, didn’t we? All of us here, every house in Muhuru, has supported WISER and has been shaped by WISER, too. Thank you for being part of this journey.”
Then came the moment that those Muhuru families had been waiting for since their students arrived at WISER as first-years in 2015. The crowd embraced the newest group of WISER alumni with hugs, kisses, and garlands galore!
As students and their families soaked in the joy of this moment, students reflected on what this moment means for their lives. “I am very proud of WISER,” said Esther. “It has made me be the person I am today. So I am very happy.”
We are, too: happy that students had the chance to celebrate their graduate prior to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, and happier, still, that this group of remarkable women, and the equally-remarkable community that raised them, will be leading our world into an uncertain future with poise, determination, and spirit.