Now, a graduation is a graduation. I have been to a handful; all sweet, gracious, and momentous. My own high school graduation was one of the most special days of my life: a celebration of my dedication to hard work, the sacrifices my family and I made, and a full appreciation for my success. Other than my own graduation, I always appreciated the short speeches, the glowing families, and the warm, value of the moment.
I expected the ProsperUS graduation to be similar: a few short speeches, a handing of diplomas, and some awe-inspired families, all endlessly proud of their graduates. The graduation was held at a place called The Freedom House. The Freedom House is a place where asylum-seeking refugees are given housing, food, and care from deep-hearted volunteers they call “mom (insert first name).” Prath and I wandered around the outside of Freedom House, looking for the entrance to the graduation. As we wandered, I noted the surrounding area: a bit decrepit, relatively deserted, and eerily quiet. We finally found the entrance, a grey door that led us up a steep flight of stairs inside a church. We walked in a few minutes late (an unfortunate result of us searing for the entrance) to a speech from one of the moms. She was glowing, radiating graciousness towards ProsperUS, and exuding the pride only a mother could display. We quickly sped to our seats and sat down mid-speech, with not enough time to look around. When she finished I glanced around the room. It was filled with East African refugees and their families, beaming the most I’ve ever seen. Two ProsperUS employees spoke, followed by one of the program graduates. His English exceeded everything I had anticipated, and his graciousness came from deep within. “Thank you ProsperUS, without you I would not have had this chance at a future here.” I felt it deeply.
Diplomas were handed out to entrepreneurs aiming to start businesses from restaurants to auto-shops alike, and with each hand-over of a piece of paper and a handshake, these people had graduated. The pride in the old room above a church exceeded what I had felt on my graduation day. This was certainty more than a few speeches and a ceremonial gesture. I could not grasp how much adversity these individuals had faced to both escape an unsafe country (they weren’t even safe yet in the US, as we were informed that no photos were allowed to be taken), and then to take advantage of their situation by attending a course on how to be successful.
Afterwards, a well-groomed young man wearing a white-button down shirt tucked into his tan corduroys came over to the PropserUS employee table. He shook our hands, introduced himself, and thanked us. He thanked us for our hard work, the opportunity, and the amount he’d learned that he’ll be applying as soon as the US grants him asylum.
Walking away from Freedom House I felt our impact: it was a feeling beyond what I’d felt at my graduation: pure pride.