Celebrating Class of 2021 Tzu Chi Academy Graduations Across the Nation

Written by Tzu Chi Volunteers
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

From May to June 2021, Tzu Chi Academies across the United States held Class of 2021 graduation ceremonies. Since the pandemic has not yet ended, most were held online. And yet,  the excitement and pride of graduates, teachers, and parents were as strong as ever.

Graduation ceremonies were held at Tzu Chi Academies in California, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York.

Tzu Chi Academy in Irvine, California: Students' Performance Lights Up the Graduation Ceremony Despite The Pandemic

Written by Yiping He

The graduation ceremony of Tzu Chi Academy in Irvine on May 16, 2021, proceeds online. Photo/Weisang Jian

The students present a program for the graduation ceremony. Photo/Huiching Su

Students receive their graduation certificate on May 22, 2021. Photo/Su Huiqing

Tzu Chi Academy in Irvine, California, held its 23rd Graduation Ceremony and Achievement Exhibition on May 16, 2021. Jackson Chen, CEO of Tzu Chi USA, and Ching Chuan Shih, Director of the Education Development Department, were guest speakers.

The graduation ceremony, for a total of 14 graduates this year, was held online. On this parting occasion, three graduates, Guangjie Zheng, Hanyi Cai, and Enzhi Long Tian, spoke on behalf of all the others. Their speeches touched on the experience of learning Chinese and how humanistic culture education inspired them.

In addition to the online graduation ceremony, students and their parents gathered in the parking lot at Tzu Chi USA National Headquarter Region’s Orange County Service Center on May 22. On that occasion, they received their diplomas and awards outdoors, thereby guarding everyone’s health and safety during these pandemic conditions. 

Wenchen Hua, the principal of the Academy, had rarely seen students and parents over the past year and was glad to reconnect in person. Happily, she told everyone, “Today we distributed report cards and summer homework at the Service Center. It was really nice to see you all! The sharing from the graduates at the ceremony was truly great! The students’ Chinese speeches were fluent without noticeable accents.”

In addition to the school’s literacy competition every year, students also participated in academic competitions organized by the Southern California Chinese School Association. Lijuan Yang, Director of Academic Affairs, shared that “This year’s spring academic competition was different than before, including story-telling competitions and speech competitions. These projects will encourage students to learn multiple subjects and cultivate their confidence and interest in learning Chinese.”

Among the graduates, Yixuan Dong has been studying at Tzu Chi Academy for two years. She shared what she had learned over that period, saying, “At Tzu Chi, the teacher not only taught us how to read Chinese but also taught us Chinese culture, as well as Jing Si Aphorisms and the spirit of Tzu Chi. I have made many friends, and I learned a lot more about Chinese culture.”

Another graduate, Chengen Wu, shared that “I came to Tzu Chi Academy later than others, and I knew limited Chinese. Tzu Chi volunteers taught me how to learn Chinese in a fun way, and my Chinese became better very soon. I’m truly grateful for them.”

A parent, Wenqi Liao, had enrolled her child in Irvine’s Tzu Chi Academy for nine years, sharing that she hoped they would learn more than Chinese language and culture:  

I hoped my child would learn the spirit of dedication, so I insisted on letting him participate in Tzu Chi Academy. When there is a disaster in the world, the Academy will start fundraising activities, and the spirit of doing good deeds will be instilled in my child. Just like, when vegetables are planted, the grass won’t grow; when goodness is planted, evil won’t stay.

Tzu Chi established the academies to provide bilingual Chinese and English education to students who grew up in the United States, teaching traditional Chinese culture, cultivating the Tzu Chi spirit, and introducing life principles. Children are the future of the world. As long as they have love and kindness in their hearts, the seeds planted by Tzu Chi will sprout, passing on traditional Chinese culture and the Tzu Chi humanistic spirit from generation to generation.

Inland Tzu Chi Youth Association (Tzu Shao) Graduation Ceremony

Written by: Shuli Lo

Students receive their graduation certificate on May 22, 2021. Photo/Su Huiqing

On the afternoon of June 13, 2021, Tzu Chi volunteers and Tzu Chi students gathered in the open space in front of the gym at Tzu Chi Education Campus in Walnut, California, to hold a warm and straightforward graduation ceremony for the eight graduates who are about to enter college life. There was no gorgeous podium or elaborate arrangements, but the words of the students and encouragement from their teachers warmed everyone’s hearts.

Tzu Chi Academy in Houston, Texas: Celebrating Achievements Online

Written by Jennifer Chien

Affected by the pandemic, Tzu Chi Academy students in Houston had studied remotely from home for nearly a year. Finally, on May 9, they celebrated with songs and recited poems during the Academy’s online graduation ceremony. Their learning achievements demonstrated successful teamwork between teachers and students in adopting the new distance learning model during the pandemic.

“Our class of 2021 graduation ceremony is held online on Zoom due to the pandemic,” explained Peiti Yen, the principal of Houston Tzu Chi Academy. She continued, saying that “A total of over 80 teachers, parents and students attended the event. The teachers and students, who hadn’t seen each other for over a year, gathered together online on the last day of the semester. Everyone was very excited and so moved.”

During the ceremony, the graduates earnestly performed poem recitations and sang the Chinese song “Happy Face.” And, students from the Pinyin class who barely speak Chinese recited Jing Si Aphorisms; although they speak Chinese with an English accent, their hard work and practice had paid off with positive acknowledgment of their achievement. 

This year, three graduates who had completed ten years of Chinese language study recorded graduation testimonials and shared their thoughts on learning Chinese with their younger siblings. Regardless of whether through online or in-person courses, Tzu Chi’s education team will continue to work hard to promote the Education Mission with unconditional love so that Tzu Chi’s character education can take root and grow stronger.

Celebrating in Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region: Online Graduation Ceremonies at Three Tzu Chi Academies

Written by: Shaozhen Liu

The graduation ceremonies for three Tzu Chi Academies in Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. Photo/Wankang Wang

The pandemic in the United States is being brought under control, the number of confirmed cases in New Jersey is also decreasing. Still, staff at the three Tzu Chi Academies in Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region – in Northern New Jersey, Central New Jersey, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania –  decided to hold their graduation ceremony online. Thus, they could protect the health and safety of everyone yet still give graduates their blessings.

All the teachers, students, and attendees at the virtual gathering listened to Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s blessings of the “Three Kindnesses.” In the hopes that the children would always be well and be good each day, they ought to: “Speak kind words, perform kind acts, and think kind thoughts. Continue to walk in the right direction of life, grasp the value of life smoothly.”

Many graduates had studied at Tzu Chi Academy for more than ten years, from preschool to today’s graduation, and have built a deep relationship with Tzu Chi teachers and volunteers. Therefore, while graduation brought joy, they were also reluctant to let go and leave, as being at the Academy would be missed.

For example, Changrui Chen from Tzu Chi Pittsburgh Academy, who speaks fluent Chinese, said, “I’ve been studying at Tzu Chi Academy since four years old. I like the learning environment at the Academy very much. I’m grateful and wish the volunteers and teachers to stay safe and healthy.”

For the parents, students, and teachers, after more than ten years of companionship, their relationships have grown to be like family. Aixiang Wu, who had long been a parent volunteer at the Academy in Central New Jersey, still remembered warmly and shared how everyone was when she brought her children to the school on the first day. 

Wencong Huang, a parent from Northern New Jersey Tzu Chi Academy who strongly supports Tzu Chi’s Education Mission, said, “Remember the words from Jing Si Aphorisms, which will guide you in this life when you remember one sentence. With two Jing Si Aphorisms, you will be covered in the next life. If you remember an entire book of Jing Si Aphorisms, you will be guided in life after life.”

At the end of the ceremony, everyone browsed through photos of the students over the years. As they looked back on the past through the images, many precious memories resurfaced in their hearts. Teachers and volunteers also used performances and expressed their blessings through sign language and technology to send caring reminders to the graduates.

The Graduation Ceremony at Tzu Chi Academy in Boston, Massachusetts

Written by Angela Shieh

The graduation ceremony at Tzu Chi Academy in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 6. Photo/Huiru Hsieh

The COVID-19 pandemic has swept the United States with force and speed. Massachusetts was among the states hardest hit in the nation, with city lockdowns, school closures, the adoption of remote learning, and stay-at-home pandemic prevention measures. As a result, in-person teaching at Tzu Chi Academy in Boston was disrupted. Yet fortunately, Massachusetts reopened in time for graduation in 2021, resuming a new normal lifestyle and work methods. 

The graduation ceremony of Tzu Chi Academy in Boston was held on the lawn right outside Tzu Chi USA’s Boston Service Center on June 6, 2021. 

There were only six graduates this year, but that did not inhibit the festivities or the presence of special guests. Jonathan C. Y. Sun, Director-General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston (TECO Boston), and Zhaorong Pan, Director of the Overseas Chinese Culture and Education Center, both attended the graduation ceremony to give their blessings.

The graduates shared their experiences and expressed their gratitude for their parents and teachers. They also made a wish: To return to school as volunteers to help other students along their educational path to eventual graduation from the Academy.

Photos From the Graduation Ceremony of Tzu Chi Academy in New York City

Vice Principal Dengzhe Xiao (left), Executive Director of Tzu Chi USA Northeast Region, Freeman Su (second left), Principal Zhenghao Wang (second right), and Vice Principal Shengyan Hsu (right) at the graduation ceremony of Tzu Chi Academy in New York, on June 19. Photo/Richard Chen

At the graduation ceremony of Tzu Chi Academy in New York.

Congratulations to all the Class of 2021 Tzu Chi Academy graduates across the nation! May their futures be bright and their contributions to the world of benefit to many.

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