WAHS Students Sign Graduation PledgeSeniors promise to graduate and to hold their classmates accountable
March 31, 2017
From Staff Reports
For five semesters Barbara Heyward has had her English IV class sign a pledge promising that they will graduate. Heyward says she was first inspired to create the pledge three years ago during her first semester teaching English IV. “I had two students contemplating quitting school,” says Heyward, “They were talking about the hardships of adulthood and their family commitments. As encouragement, the class agreed to commit to helping them be accountable for successful completion of their graduation requirements.”
In the days leading up to signing the pledge, Heyward has her students research what it means to “chase success” through completing various readings and activities and blogging about success. For homework the night before, students are required to read an article about accountability partners. The article explains what an accountability partner is and how they often contribute to someone being successful.
Once students recite the Graduation Pledge, it is signed by themselves, Heyward, and their accountability partner. Accountability partners are students who agree to help one of their classmates meet the requirements they must fulfill in order to graduate. A student’s accountability partner is someone in their class who they can trust to help and support them until graduation.
During the ceremony, Heyward plays “Pomp and Circumstance” while she reads the pledge aloud and has students repeat after her. The pledge reads “I, ________, will graduate from high school. No matter what it takes, or how hard it gets, I can do this and I will not give up. I make this pledge to myself, my family, my friends, my school, and my community.” Heyward also passes out cupcakes at the conclusion of the ceremony as another way to celebrate the commitment they just made to their classmates and themselves.
The whole process is designed to show students that they are valued members of their school, community, and society; further showing them how important their future is. “I believe for some students when they hear ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ during our ceremony reality hits. They get a glimpse of the finish line and realize they are almost there!” says Heyward. “One student remarked that she would be the first in her family to graduate.”
The Graduation Pledge has had a strong impact on the school and the students. “Students often become closer as they are now cheering for each of their peers to finish,” says Heyward, “I also believe that the raw emotions and vulnerability expressed during “Pledge Day” also breaks the ice for students who would normally be reluctant to be as vocal in class. It’s an opportunity for them to be reflective decision makers, and they handle the task with grace.”
Students are not required to sign the pledge but very few ever opt out. “I have only had one student that did not want to be held accountable,” says Heyward, “and I had a varsity football player turn to that student and say ‘that is not how we build a team’. He pledged to be the student’s accountability partner in addition to his original partner.”