The drums pierced with a wild blaze through my heart— the sounds were something ancient and completely mesmerizing. While listening, clapping, and cheering I waved my hands over my my eyes hoping to assuage the wellspring of emotion rushing through me— tears would have definitely fallen otherwise. The drumming circle lent us musical encouragement as they performed for us. The juxtaposition of their white dresses surrounded by a sea of black gowns formed a stark and lovely tableau. The stunning weight of the past three years at Bank Street welled quickly in my chest and I wanted to allow the tears to flow— but I really didn’t want to ruin my makeup.
The happiness also came from the effervescent sense of celebration in the room where graduates prepared for graduation below the nave. Graduates from all programs at Bank Street gathered together to unite as one graduating class.
Later, during the processional, the sound of their deep, quick, rhythmic drumming resounded through the majestic interior at Riverside Church. I took in the first glimpse of the space— ornately carved embellishments and stained glass windows raced along the walls, up to the impressive dome ceiling of the historic location as our procession made its way to the front. Some of us waved at family and friends in the aisles, others, too stunned by the wonderful magnitude of the moment, could only walk solemnly forward. I know I did a little of both, a smile on my face expressed my happiness, while in my head, a hundred thoughts raced.
It was commencement day and we (the first graduates of the Early Childhood Urban Education Initiative – affectionately known as the Bronx Cohort ) were graduating – yay! . I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy accompanied by a healthy dose of terror. The terror, which was not unexpected, came due to the speech I was giving during the ceremony— the excitement and the joy belonged to the sense of accomplishment, the pride we felt and saw reflected in our past instructors, and family members.
There were a million photos being taken, frantic adjustments to caps and gowns, and so many hugs, smiles and pep talks among each other.
Settling into pews, we heard inspiring, encouraging words while the ceremony progressed. We heard from our president, Shael Polakow-Suransky, our Dean, Cecelia Traugh, the honorary degree recipient, Frances Lucerna and student speakers. We also heard a lovely song by one of my classmates (you’re amazing Zoe!).
Walking up to receive my degree felt like unadulterated, pure pride. The moment was a thrilling reminder that absolutely any and all challenges along the way there were not just overcome but successfully obliterated— and that although nothing worth having comes easily— the value of meeting those goals, is entirely unparalleled.