The students were beaming with self-fulfillment as they received their graduation diplomas and achievement awards. Their parents couldn’t keep their eyes dry as they recalled the countless sacrifices that gave the moment special meaning. Their teachers’ faces lit up to see their students achieving a great milestone in their lives. The Commencement, or Moving Up Ceremony, for Bohol Deaf Academy on March 25, 2017, filled and surrounded the students with pride, excitement, joy, and relief.
The Bohol Deaf Academy (BDA), a high school for the Deaf operated by IDEA on the island of Bohol, is proud to present its 19 graduates – 5 young men and 14 young ladies – for the school year 2016-2017. Leading the class in academic achievement was Almera Joyce Mejoy, the Class Valedictorian and Zean Bongalos, the Class Salutatorian.
Zean welcomed everyone to the ceremony and thanked all of the people who supported her throughout her education. As Almera delivered her speech, she extended her words of gratitude to her family, teachers, friends, sponsors, and IDEA who she credited with providing strength and motivation. At the same time, she inspired her fellow graduates by saying, “Let us not only reach for the mountain top; let us reach for the stars.”
Almera’s mother, Alicia, also gave a testimony of their journey in raising a Deaf child which she said is no easy task. She and her husband knew little sign language and could only communicate with Almera with great effort. Even with this challenge, they felt blessed by Almera’s patient spirit. She never failed to take the time to communicate using pen and paper. Today Almera’s patience is still evident in teaching her family how to sign. It is a relief that Almera’s elder sister is skilled with sign language and is her best buddy at home.
Almera’s mother said that her daughter has always been a blessing to their family. Even now with the challenge that their family is facing with her father undergoing dialysis, God has given them the precious gift of Almera’s success in her studies. With tears in her eyes, her mother thanked the people who contributed to her daughter’s achievements. She said, “To BDA, we couldn’t thank you enough. No amount could ever repay your teachings to our Deaf children. What they have attained and their future employment opportunities are our [as parents] and our children’s debts from the teachers from elementary until here in BDA.”
“To the sponsors… the sponsor of my child, Chip & Dianne, who have been sponsoring my child since preschool up to now, even though they are not here with us; still they gave through all the years, all the special occasions, they gave gifts, they gave help financially to our children,” she added.
The Commencement Address was given by Mr. Bill Griffin, a long-time friend of IDEA, a sponsor, and one of the volunteers who first transformed a piece of jungle into the remarkable Bohol Deaf Academy. Though he promised not to cry on the graduation day, Bill was teary-eyed as he remembered the days that he and his fellow volunteers built the BDA classrooms and dorms about thirteen years ago. He expressed feeling overwhelmed by witnessing how that work has changed the lives of these Deaf children. He then gave words of encouragement to the graduates, “Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things under one condition: that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”
In a country where most of the Deaf struggle to enjoy their right to quality education, our graduates are so blessed to have people who support the mission of IDEA to uplift and inspire the lives of the Deaf. Indeed because of these struggles, these Deaf students at IDEA have many more reasons to celebrate their achievements. Congratulations to the graduates of BDA Class of 2016-2017 as well as a hats off to the parents, teachers, sponsors, donors and everyone else who believes in IDEA! Let these few lines of the tribute song of the graduates reach your hearts:
“With the love and care and nurturing, you made me who I am. You’ve given me inspiration, put your trust and your faith in me. Now everything that I’ve become, I’ve become because you believe. So I say, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. My future shines so bright because of you.”