Written by Ihsuan Tsai
Translated by Ariel Chan
Edited by Patrick McShane
The 10th Graduation Ceremony at the Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation’s Great Love Preschool in Walnut, California, and the 17th Graduation Ceremony at Tzu Chi’s Great Love Preschool in Monrovia, California, were held on May 19th and May 25th, respectively. Parents were invited to join this joyous and heartwarming celebration as children showcased their achievements by performing songs in both English and Chinese, and expressed gratitude to their teachers and volunteers. Graduating and current students took the stage to deliver speeches, and the teachers presented the graduates with tassels to the tune of the song “Planting Trees.” The children received their first graduation certificates and graduation gifts from the hands of their teachers.
The children’s expressions were sincere. Graduating student Chen Gan-Lin said, “Thank you, teachers, thank you, everyone; thank you for all the happiness I experienced at school.” Liu Zhi-Zhong expressed, “I am ready to go. I am prepared!” Chu Fan-Zhen shared, “I love drawing and listening to the teacher’s stories at school. I am graduating, and I am going to kindergarten.”
Thank You for Helping Me Grow
Teachers led the graduating students into the Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation’s 10th Graduation Ceremony at the Great Love Preschool in Walnut with great care. The Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation representatives, school staff, volunteers, and parents warmly welcomed them with applause. Some parents even discreetly reminded the students to walk slowly so they could capture photographs.
Principal Chen Yi-Wen was delighted to host the graduation ceremony: “Many children have been at our school for two or three years. They can perform songs in both English and Chinese. I want to thank the parents and friends for coming here to celebrate this special day with the children.”
Together, the children performed the English song “I Am Ready to Go” and the Chinese song “感謝” (Thank You). They expressed their gratitude through lifted voices, thanking their dear parents for their love, cooking delicious meals, and accompanying them as they grow. They also thanked their beloved teachers for imparting boundless knowledge and guiding them through uncertainties, and friends for sharing in their ups and downs and exploring the vast world together throughout their school days.
Six graduating students took the stage to represent their classmates and spoke in either Chinese or English about what they enjoyed most at school. This included sharing toys with friends, enjoying the school lunches, their love for painting, having fun in the tea and flower arrangement classes, cherishing storytelling sessions with teachers, and singing songs with friends. The school also arranged for six current students to express their blessings and farewells to the graduates, saying, “We will miss you!” Then, the graduates handed over their lamps to the current students, passing down the Tzu Chi humanitarian spirit to their juniors.
Grateful to the Volunteers Who Helped Them Learn
Tzu Chi volunteers form a strong team and help out in many fields. Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation CEO Debbie Lee presented certificates of appreciation to the volunteers at the ceremony as well. Graduating students, in turn, offered gifts and grateful hugs to thank the volunteers for their continuous companionship and support. The graduates also shared their admiration for their teachers and presented gifts expressing gratitude for their heartfelt guidance.
Afterward, the graduates went backstage with the help of teachers and volunteers to don their graduation caps, preparing to return to the stage to receive their graduation certificates. They received their first graduation certificates and gifts and performed the ceremonial gesture of moving the tassel from left to right on cue from Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation’s CEO Debbie Lee, Deputy CEO Du Bin, Chen Yi-Rou, and Preschool Principal Chen Yi-Wen. After their big moment, the children received well-wishes for the educational journey ahead from all present.
Parent Yang Jing-Fang expressed her heartfelt appreciation: “We are extremely grateful to every teacher for educating our children with love. Thank you for the humanistic care provided by Tzu Chi Great Love, which not only nurtures their thoughtfulness but also teaches them to be grateful. I am also very thankful for the solid Chinese language teaching at Tzu Chi Great Love, which has sparked my child’s interest in Chinese. I cannot thank the teachers enough, and I am truly grateful for the wholehearted management of the school.” She especially mentioned the challenges faced by the children during the pandemic, where they have grown up wearing masks. This undoubtedly added many challenges for the school in terms of teaching and maintaining the environment. Therefore, she expressed her special thanks to the school for making many adjustments amid these difficulties, allowing their precious children to learn and grow safely and peacefully.
Surprised by How Much Their Children Learned
Parent and Tzu Chi volunteer Lin Jen-I’s son has attended Tzu Chi’s school for two years. “I have always hoped my son would attend Tzu Chi Kindergarten, and without a doubt, he has learned and grown so much at the school. He has learned to tidy up his belongings, clear his own meal tray, and help his friends, and his progress in Chinese has been remarkable. One day, he shared the 12 Chinese zodiac animals and suddenly told me, ‘Mom, I was born in the Year of the Rooster.’ I was surprised by what he learned at school and proud that he is graduating.” Lin Jen-I mentioned that she has another young child who will definitely attend Tzu Chi Kindergarten in two years.
Parent Chung Hsiao-Ying believes that learning humanistic qualities and character education at Tzu Chi Kindergarten is very important. “Children come home and express gratitude to their parents, teachers, and everything they have. I am very thankful for this kind of nurturing because while children can learn knowledge and skills anywhere, if these values can take root in their young hearts, I believe it will greatly benefit them. Thank you Tzu Chi Kindergarten for this.”
Tzu Chi Kindergarten’s English teacher, Annette Clark, loves Tzu Chi’s character education, too. “I believe it’s essential for children because while they can be taught many things like English letters, numbers, spelling, reading, and other preschool-level topics, the most important is teaching them great love and how to be honest and helpful individuals.”
Kindergarten parent, Walter Ewing, shared a quote from Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s writings: “Some of us are born with the drive to accomplish. Such drive is rooted deeply in the soul; this yearning to accomplish is carried over from the previous life.” He always keeps this quote in mind and uses it to contemplate the future of his children and family. “Every time I struggle or face new challenges, such as planning for my children’s future or the next steps to take, I always think of our ancestors and the positive words that surround us. So, I am truly grateful to Master Cheng Yen, Tzu Chi Foundation, and other volunteers who deeply help from the heart. I am also grateful to the teachers for providing my children with learning, care, great love, patience, and the knowledge of how to become a positive person.”