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Sending Forth Wishes for a Bright Future at Tzu Chi Academy’s Graduation Ceremony in New Jersey

National Headquarters  |  August 17, 2020
Parents perform the tassel turning ceremony. Photo by Wankang Wang.

Written by Jenny Sun
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

In the state of California alone, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have reached 533,132 as of August 6th, 2020, having seen thousands of new cases per day. The state began the careful process of reopening in May, with many hopeful at the prospect of returning to a sense of normalcy. However, with the recent surge in cases, the plan has been forced to roll back, again announcing the temporary closure of several types of indoor businesses and activities. With this, people who had been eager to return to work once more had to grapple with food insecurity. 

The ceremony was unveiled with blessings from the venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen, the founder of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation. Master Cheng Yen expressed gratitude for the Academy’s parents and their dedication to their children’s education, and sent forth her wishes for a bright future for all the graduates. Tina Lee, the Director of the Tzu Chi New Jersey Office, extended her blessings from Taiwan as well, urging the graduates to remember Master Cheng Yen’s blessings, cultivate gratitude for the efforts of their parents, and apply what they learned at school in their daily lives.

Master Cheng Yen is grateful for the dedication parents exhibit in their children’s education, and wishes the graduating students a bright future. Photo by Jenny Sun.
Tina Lee, the Director of the Tzu Chi New Jersey Office, extended her blessings from Taiwan, urging the graduating students to apply what they learned at school in their daily lives. Photo by Wankang Wang.

There were a total of eleven graduating students from the Tzu Chi Academy in Central New Jersey. Instructor Shuhui Chiu has taught this class for two years and has forged strong bonds with her students, and so, she proudly shared her best blessings with the students. In the graduation video, she introduced the graduates one by one. Each graduate expressed sincere gratitude to their parents, teachers, and volunteers. Shuhui Chiu remembered that when a student named Anne Xu arrived at the academy on the first day, she had been very shy. But now, she has grown to be both confident and gracious.

In addition to learning Chinese, the most important lesson taught at Tzu Chi Academy is that of humanistic culture. Student Lea Sheng has always loved Tzu Chi’s sign language lessons since she was little, and missed spending time with her classmates. She is enthusiastic about doing community service and will return to the Academy to be a ‘big sister’ volunteer. Another student named Eric Hu is a veritable little Tzu Chi bodhisattva. When his mother was pregnant with him, she volunteered at the Academy as well. Tzu Chi’s humanistic culture has influenced him since birth. When he first learned to walk, he followed his father around the school and was in charge of ringing the school bell to signify the start or end of class. Volunteers called him the “little principal.”  Now, having grown up, he’s among the brightest students in his year. He always arrives at school early to review homework with younger brothers and sisters, as though the spirit of volunteering has become a habit.

Student Lea Sheng has always loved Tzu Chi’s sign language lessons since she was little, and missed spending time with classmates. She is enthusiastic about community service and will return to the Academy as a volunteer. Photo by Jenny Sun.
Tzu Chi’s humanistic culture has influenced Eric Hu since birth. Now, he’s among the brightest in his year, and always arrived at school early to review homework with younger brothers and sisters. Photo by Jenny Sun.

Ms. Lai of Tzu Chi Academy in Northern New Jersey is grateful to have had six wonderful students, and introduced each of the graduates. Student Isabel Lin expressed gratitude for having learned to love others in school, to have understood the hardships of others, to be thankful for one’s blessings in life. Ian Day feels that Jing Si aphorisms have been particularly useful for him. He especially appreciates the aphorism, “Speak good words, think good thoughts, and do good deeds.”

Even though I cannot go back to Taiwan frequently, I have learned Chinese here, and can converse with my grandparents, and also learned about Chinese culture.

Kaitlyn Lin, Graduate

From kindergarten to tenth grade is a total of twelve years of learning; the graduates are grateful to each and every teacher who has taught them during this time. Looking at the familiar faces of the teachers in the photos, memories of the past blossomed to mind again. Every teacher has been a significant influence in their lives.

In the U.S., only Tzu Chi Academy teaches moral education as a core part of their curriculum, and so, it’s an important factor for many of the parents who choose Tzu Chi Academy. Some parents drive a two hour round trip to the academy for their children to attend, and did this continuously for 12 years — all so that their children could have the opportunity to cultivate a mindful, humanistic strength of character. The parents were grateful beyond words. Parent representative Li-Wen Tsao first began as a volunteer, and eventually became a teacher. He is sincerely thankful for the teachers and volunteers, as they acted more like parents accompanying the students, creating a safe cradle full of compassion and tolerance, and allowing the children to grow at their own pace. “I owe the teachers so much gratitude,” he said. “Words are not enough to express my gratefulness.”

The moment everyone was looking forward to was the turning of the tassel, symbolizing the completion of one phase of life and the new journey ahead. This year’s tassel turning ceremony was performed by the parents. The few seconds of tassel turning included the infinite blessings of teachers and parents online. The students waved and thanked Master Cheng Yen for creating the world of Tzu Chi.

Hui-Yuan Cheng, who had been a teacher at the Academy and also became a Tzu Chi commissioner, was sincerely moved by the graduation ceremony. Although it was held online, she could feel the caring warmth that carried through the ceremony. She thanked every teacher and the administrative team of the academy.

Hui-Yuan Cheng felt the caring warmth of the ceremony, and thanked the teachers and the administrative team of the academy. Photo courtesy of a Tzu Chi Academy parent.

Hui-Yuan Cheng, who had been a teacher at the Academy and also became a Tzu Chi commissioner, was sincerely moved by the graduation ceremony. Although it was held online, she could feel the caring warmth that carried through the ceremony. She thanked every teacher and the administrative team of the academy.

Chi-Yuan Lee has three children attending the Academy, and feels confident with her children’s education with Tzu Chi. Photo by Wankang Wang.

Another parent, Anita Chuang, expressed that because her daughter, Alyssa Yin, has truly been nurtured by the humanistic culture, and that she sincerely likes to help people, and has also joined Tzu Shao. During the pandemic, she and some good friends made cloth masks to help others in need. The love and kindness the children learned in the academy are lasting treasures.

Anita Chuang is grateful that her daughter Alyssa Yin learned humanistic culture at Tzu Chi Academy; the love and kindness she learned are lasting treasures. Photo courtesy of a Tzu Chi Academy parent.

Since it was their first time setting up an online graduation ceremony where many participants would be joining in, the team worked hard to make sure all the details are taken care of in advance. Teacher I-Hui Chang of the Northern New Jersey Tzu Chi Academy was the emcee for the event. She felt it was a bit like riding a roller coaster,  and was very nervous but also excited. She learned many things and was very grateful to the team that made it all work so well. The producer of the video, Wayne Wu, expressed thanks for the cooperation of the teachers and students who pre-recorded. This was a team effort. Jason Chen, who acted as director of the graduation ceremony, took this on with a grateful heart as well. Remembering Master Cheng Yen’s teachings to treat every child as your own, all hoped that through this event, that same love could still be felt.

Since it was their first time setting up an online graduation ceremony, the team worked hard to make sure all the details are taken care of in advance. Photo by Wayne Wu.
As the emcee of the online graduation ceremony, I-Hui Chang learned many new things, and was grateful to the team that made it all work so well. Photo by Wayne Wu.

New Jersey Department of Education’s Belinda Liu was the chief coordinator of the graduation ceremony. She said the biggest challenge was to have the children feel the blessings in a virtual environment, and that it required a little more imagination. Extra effort was put into the selection of music this time, hoping to convey the children’s growth and journey in the 12 years at the Academy through both the visual and musical selection. It is expected that all graduates will keep the love and warmth of their global Tzu Chi family in their hearts, and embark on their new journey with the character and self-confidence learned at the academy. Even though it was an online graduation ceremony, all agreed that the care they felt was as strong as if they were all physically seated beside each other.

Even though it was an online graduation ceremony, all agreed that the care they felt was as strong as if they were all physically seated beside each other. Photo by Wankang Wang.

You can assist Tzu Chi volunteers as we aid struggling families all across the nation. We’re calling for 500k donors to help us raise $5 million in charitable donations. Every dollar counts, and in these challenging times, your selfless gift of $10 can help us deliver hope to those who can’t afford to feed their families, or provide essential PPE to individuals on the frontlines. If we can inspire 500,000 people to participate, we can reach $5,000,000 in relief!

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