By Catherine Carlson
This June marks the fifth year that the Anglican Deanery has organized Monica Place Gala, a graduate event for the residents of this maternity home.
Twelve churches in the Waterloo Deanery donate funds to cover the cost of decorating and paying the custodial fees at Knox Presbyterian in Waterloo. Volunteers from St. George’s Forest Hill, St. George’s New Hamburg, Christ Church Ayr, and Holy Saviour decorate the hall, prepare and serve the food and clean up following the gala.
We have come a long way from the days when I was in high school and a teenage girl might become pregnant and then drop out of school or quietly head off to a relative in another city to have her baby. All was very hush-hush and somewhat shameful. I am glad that we live in an age when we acknowledge that these things happen and we must work to fully support the young woman so she may not only have her child, but also get the credits she needs to graduate from high school.
The school board provides the daily support these young women need to continue to study and get their diplomas and also day care for the babies and young children while the girls attend classes. Teaching staff are flexible and key to encouraging the girls to be resilient and re-define what high school looks like and move each young woman to receiving her high school diploma. Upon graduation some of them receive scholarships to attend college. Truly this is a living example of what it means to have a whole village raise a child.
Over one hundred people attended the gala on June 28. The young women brought their children and partners and family members to celebrate their momentous achievement. Their children were dressed in complimentary colours and outfits to match those of their proud mums. And it was truly a celebration!
Lots of nervous giggles and a few happy tears were shed as they assembled in the foyer and donned their grad gowns and mortarboards. In full regalia, Mike Doublay, of St. George’s Forest Hill played the bag pipes to usher them in. At his side, the Rev Margaret Walker from St. George’s New Hamburg –the resident chaplain for Monica Place – beamed with pride. And with all things in place, the women moved into the hall to stand and wait to receive their diplomas after their valedictorian addressed those gathered.
What a distance we have come in the last few decades! One of the volunteers confided in me that she does so because her own daughter, years ago, found herself in similar circumstances and it is just this June that the volunteer’s own grandson graduated from his high school. His mother is now a successful businesswoman who realized her potential because she was surrounded by love and encouragement.
Graduation. A milestone. Indeed. And one worthy of celebrating and acknowledging.