They are aspiring police officers, ballerinas, art teachers, doctors, nurses (the singing kind) and ninjas. A dozen imaginative and thoughtful kindergarteners make up the St. Jude School Program’s graduating class of 2022.
The students completed kindergarten while undergoing treatment and managing the ongoing pandemic. They received mortarboards, graduation robes and tassels, along with other gifts. Students shared videos to commemorate the milestone as part of a virtual video graduation.
In celebration of graduation, School Program principal Randy Thompson shared a Dr. Seuss quote during the video: “You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” Thompson thanked parents, grandparents, families and all staff members for supporting the students’ journeys through the rest of their future academic experiences.
“To the class of 2022, with our hearts full of joy and gratitude, we pause this day to celebrate your accomplishments,” said K-2 teacher Elizabeth Hawkins. “Each and every paper, project and lesson learned, both inside and outside the classroom, is a testimony of your strength and tenacity.”
Kaci Richardson, K-2 teacher, thanked the families who attended the St. Jude school for sharing their children entrusting them to each teacher.
Michaela Shurden, K-2 teacher, thanked her fellow teachers for their dedication to the children and their families. “Thank you for your thoughtful planning and time invested in the lives of every one of them,” she said. “Kindergarten is not just learning to read and write. Those things are important, but just as important is kindness and friendships.”
James R. Downing, MD, president and chief executive officer, congratulated the kindergartners and remarked how the experience is special because it may have been the first time students were away from parents or met new friends to play, sing and learn new things.
“I remember my kindergarten class well,” Downing said. “It is where I made my first real friends and met grownups who knew so much about the world. It was my first experience being in a classroom—a place I came to love. I loved it so much I continued to go for the next 20 years, all the way through medical school. But it was kindergarten that started the entire journey.”
Downing stressed that teachers and classmates have become part of the St. Jude family, and doctors and nurses took pride in making sure they supported the children along the way, teaching life lessons and making sure they could attend classes.
During the pandemic, the teachers learned how to support each other, especially when they had to go virtual.
“We laugh a lot, so that helps keep us going,” Shurden said. “We are not just teachers—we have a variety of roles. There is the academic part, but teachers are also there to help emotionally and socially.”