Over the weekend, our entire UWC ISAK Japan community, from staff, students and faculty to students’ families and board members, were on campus to celebrate the graduation of our beloved second class of graduates! It was truly a day of celebration as we applauded the journeys of the Class of 2018.
Here is a look back at the day’s events:
08:30 – Robing Up!
The crickets were beginning to chirp and the weather uncharacteristically sunny as our Class of 2018 students woke up bright and early to get ready! After a hearty breakfast specially prepared by Cezar’s Kitchen (including Chef Adi’s famous chicken rice!), our graduates headed up to the Art Room to start robing up for the ceremony. It was a flurry of activity as they put on their gowns, affixed their mortarboards to their heads (some with the use of bobby pins) and ironed their sashes. It was also the last casual time that our soon-to-be graduates would have together as a class, so they took the time to enjoy each other’s company, chatting, snapping photos and playfully messing up, and then fixing, their outfits. At 9:45am, Head of School, Mr. Jemison, arrived to have a few private words with the class.
10:00 – Ceremonial Procession
30 minutes out from the start of the Ceremony, Mr. Jemison wrapped up his last words with the Class of 2018. With excitement palpable in the air, our Grade 12s then arranged themselves into two lines in preparation to process down to the Gym, where the ceremony was to take place. As they started their procession, faculty and staff members who were waiting outside clapped and cheered (and maybe a few wiped away some tears…). It was a proud and touching moment for everyone present! The procession stopped outside the Gym, where our students formed an honour guard-type wall for our administration, staff and faculty who were walking into the gym, showing appreciation for the people who loved and supported them during their time at UWC ISAK Japan.
10:30 – Ceremony Starts!
In the Gym, our guests were being welcomed by Yutaro (Class of 2019, Japan) and Sofia (Class of 2019, Portugal), the emcees for the event. After the Staff and Faculty Procession, it was time for our students to enter. As the sounds of American Authors’ ‘Best Day of My Life’ filled the Gym, our Class of 2018 students walked in to a standing ovation. One by one, the seats on the stage were slowly filled up by the proud graduates, and the Ceremony officially begun! They were first addressed by Mr. Susumu Fujimaki, the mayor of Karuizawa Town, who shared his congratulations to the class. He acknowledged the bravery of the students in coming to Karuizawa from places near and far, immersing themselves in new cultures and learning to live independently from their parents. He also cited their positive interactions with our students, saying that the local community has often been impressed by their honest and fresh attitudes.
10:40 – Speeches by Lin Kobayashi and Mr. Alan Austin
Founder and Chair of the Board, Lin Kobayashi, took the floor to address the Class of 2018 graduates following the Mayor. In her speech, she reminiscence about the times when the students first arrived — the Kamiyama Academic Centre and Residence House 4 was in the midst of being built, the school population was at half the size it is now, and no one knew that ISAK would become a UWC. Yet, the students and their families trusted the school, and for that, she was thankful. She then shared two anecdotes of starting the school, and ended with encouraging our graduates to not be afraid of pushing the boundaries.
Next, Mr. Alan Austin, the guest speaker, was invited on stage to speak. Mr. Austin was previously a faculty member at UWC ISAK Japan (then known as ISAK). He crafted his speech as the last English lesson for the Class of 2018, giving them life advice as they moved into college and beyond. He ended off by setting homework due in the year 3018 — for all students to hand in a list of all the concerts, ballets, theatre productions and art galleries visited, books and poems read, bonus points for actually participating in any of the above events — with the message that all we learn about all those who have gone before us, we learn from the art they have left us.
11:25 – Presentation of Diplomas
Following the speeches, it was finally time for what everyone had been waiting for! Mr. Pierre Lacoste, Deputy Head of School, who was announcing the first half of the graduating class, took a few minutes to acknowledge that he felt as though he was graduating today, as he arrived at the same time as many of the students in the Class of 2018. In French, he ended with telling the graduates to “always be proud of your story and your culture”. On the other hand, Dr. Alexander McGregor, who announced the second half of the graduating class, shared his impressions as a new member of the community this year. In his recollections, he thanked the graduates for making him feel part of the UWC ISAK Japan family, and recognized the challenges that many faced to graduate on the day. Mamoru Taniya, Representative Founder, alongside Lin Kobayashi and Roderick Jemison, presented the diplomas to our graduates.
12:00 – Speeches by Student Speaker, Alumni Speaker and Mr. Jemison
With diplomas securely in their laps, it was time for the Student Speaker to take the stage. The Student Speaker had been elected by the Class of 2018 to represent them at the ceremony. This year, our Student Speaker was Zoe from the Cayman Islands. She highlighted how in coming to UWC ISAK, the Class of 2018 had been exposed to a level of diversity that most of them had never before experienced, and face cultures, opinions and beliefs that were different to their own. However, by challenging their own preconceived notions of the world, they learnt how to be more inclusive and appreciative of the diversity of opinions around them. On behalf of the graduates, she also thanked the community that had nurtured them.
Following Zoe, a representative from the Class of 2017, the alumni speaker, Jaymee, gave her address. She congratulated the graduates on their accomplishments, and gave them advice on how to navigate life after UWC ISAK.
To end off the ceremony, we had a speech from Head of School, Mr. Rod Jemison, where he thanked everyone present for being there to celebrate the momentous occasion. He also took the opportunity to give gratitude to the faculty and staff who had unconditionally given to each and every student, to which our Class of 2018 graduates rose to give a standing ovation. In his address, Mr. Jemison acknowledged the accomplishments and hard work that the graduating class had put in to build the school. In closing, he said that the class would be missed dearly, but their presence had been felt, appreciated, and will last forever.
12:20 – Ceremony Closes
To mark the end of the ceremony, and the official graduation of the Class of 2018, the graduates stood up and moved their tassels to the left. Then, on cue, everyone tossed their mortarboards into the air (one or two of which somehow ended up on the catwalk!). It was an incredibly emotional moment for everyone present, more so the graduates, who immediately embraced one another, some in tears. After the reception was announced, the Classes of 2019 and 2020 joined the graduates on stage, taking the time to thank each one, give them a warm hug, and wish them well.
12:30 – Reception and Goodbye!
In the Asama Building, there was a lunch reception where students and their families could mingle over some delicious food. Some Grade 12 students were also preparing to leave, so there was still a rush of activity even after the ceremony. Students ran around giving each other notes, saying their last goodbyes and snapping as many photos as they could to remember the day.
“The Class of 2018, go forth and change the world.”
– Roderick Jemison, Head of School
We would like to take this opportunity to once again congratulate our beloved Class of 2018 graduates. We are so excited for the amazing things all of you will invariably go on to achieve!