One by one I called them out. I could hardly contain myself. I was smiling so big it hurt my face and I was forever on the verge of tears. I have never seen the kids so positive before. All the kids were grinning. Even the ones that, during the year, had a permanent stain of anger on their faces. I have never felt anything like it.
The parents were just as excited and weren't afraid to show it. They were audibly uninterested in what the keynote speaker was saying. They clapped when he was finished, not for him, but because the end of his speech had come. They couldn't stand the wait.
When the students stood up the auditorium erupted. The family members were up on their feet screaming and crying and yelling out their student's name. You could hardly hear the names being called.
The energy in the air was tangible.
When it was over, one of my students came up to me and gave me a hug. A real hug. A hug that meant more than just a hug. While we embraced she whispered in my ear "I am so scared." and then she started to cry.
And then I started to cry. And I held her. "If you ever need anything," I told her "just call me, okay? I will help you." She nodded and tears streamed down our faces. I was scared for her too. What would she do? She had a baby and she got fired from McDonalds. Her aunt wasn't supportive and she doesn't know where her mother is. What would happen to her? Who would call her in the morning and tell her it was time to go to school? Not me. I couldn't do it anymore. She was on her own.
I cried harder.