As I concluded my freshman year, I could easily name off a few seniors who gave me the best advice, served as the greatest inspirations, and whom I’ll be forever thankful for. I was already planning on staying on campus through graduation, and thought what better way to spend these last few days than among individuals who had given me so much. I volunteered to assist with the Class of 2016’s graduation weekend. I was assigned to volunteer at the Candlelight Ceremony, and also served as a reference point as seniors crossed the Crim Dell on their unofficial (official) Walk Across Campus.
The weather wasn’t too hot, both in the literal and figurative sense, as clouds blocked the suns shine, the rain was relentless, and this made for an unfavorable humid weather condition. Thankfully, this circumstance did not affect the graduates happiness, nor their overwhelming sense of relief knowing that their years spending endless hours in Swem was about to receive the recognition it deserved.
I greeted graduates at the outdoor tent entrance and handed them a candle. Many entered with their families, friends, and significant others, so I was constantly greeting graduates & their guests, while asking “are you a graduate? The candles are for graduates only.” An older man came through, and I assumed he was one of the many supportive parents, so when he reached for the candle, I said, “sorry these are for graduates only.” He didn’t let go of his grip, and instead smiled to share, “but I am graduating!” in the most enthused, upbeat voice you could imagine. We both smiled, and I quickly exclaimed, “congratulations!” Something about that moment reminded me of the culture of William & Mary founded on passion and drive; anything is truly possible if you set your mind to it and the students here do amazing things everyday.
Weather conditions aside, the atmosphere at the Candlelight Ceremony was warm, familiar, and inclusive. Students and their loved ones huddled under a tent posted in the Sunken Garden, and waited to ignite their candles as a class after the speaker had finished making backhanded, yet light-hearted, comments toward the school and its students. The atmosphere of proud friends, and family, and the driven graduates who were bound to shed a tear that weekend (whether they admit doing so or not) for their love of William & Mary is just one of the reasons I am glad I volunteered. Another reason I did so was for the free shirts.
Having graduated high school just a year prior, and volunteered with this year’s ceremony, I am beginning to feel as though I am some sort of certified graduation participant. I would love to volunteer next year, but I won’t ever be ready for the moment when the honeymoon phase is over, and I start to miss every class that precedes me. One day, I’ll be handed a candle and told not to light it until after the jovial, bittersweet, backhanded speech given at the event that marks new beginnings. I’m not ready to say bye to the school I love so much, so it is a good thing that I won’t be saying good-bye for another few years, and even then I won’t be saying good-bye… I will be saying see you later.