Grad season begins Friday
High school graduation season in American Samoa starts this Friday and ceremonies for the private schools will include speeches by the Valedictorians since their ceremonies usually last about two hours, compared to public high school graduations that at times have lasted three to four hours.
Department of Education director Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau announced two weeks ago that it had been agreed with the high school principals and their Parent/ Teacher Associations that the graduation ceremony was not to be more than two hours in length. It was also agreed that there will be no valedictorian speeches or awards presented on graduation day, except for ASG Scholarships.
The private high schools reached by Samoa News say that since they have a smaller number of graduates compared to public schools, they are maintaining their past practices and are not planning to follow the DOE policy.
In the meantime, Samoa News is offering to publish the speeches of the valedictorians of all high schools — public and private — at no cost — in the newspaper and online at samoanews.com.
Valedictorians may also submit their speeches as a video clip or include it as a part of their speech, which would then be uploaded to our online site and to our Samoa News facebook page.
The speeches and video clips must be received 24 hours before their respective graduation day. Written speeches are limited to a 3,000 word count, while video clips cannot be more than 3- 5 minutes long. Samoa News will edit for length or time.
Graduation season starts this Friday at 9 a.m. with Manumalo Baptist School and Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga will be the Keynote speaker, according to a school official, who also pointed out “we are going to try to honor” the ASDOE policy and keep the Valedictorian speech to a minimum so that the ceremony will remain at two hours or less.
This is a special graduation for the Malaeimi-based school, since it will also be its last high school graduation, the school official said, noting that students from the school will be transferred to other high schools in the territory, and this was a choice made by the students and their parents.
The first graduation for Manumalo was held in 1995 and Samoa News understands that the decision to make this year the last graduation for their high school division is due to economic reasons.
Also this Friday is Kanana Fou High School's graduation starting at 10:30 a.m. at the Kanana Fou compound. It was not immediately clear if there will be a speech by the valedictorian, but a parent with the school’s PTA says Kanana Fou graduations are usually less than two hours, and as far as she knows there will be a valedictorian speech.
The next graduation is Sunday, May 26 for Iakina Academy starting at 1 p.m. Samoa News understands that the valedictorian speech will be given during the ceremony but there was no official confirmation from school officials.
At Pacific Horizons school, an official says their graduation is set for May 30 at 6 p.m. and they only have three graduates this year. “Usually our graduation ceremonies are short” and the three graduates are very competitive, said the official, adding that there will be a speech by the valedictorian.
The next graduation in the lineup is June 1 for Fa’asao Marist, whose principal Victor Langkilde says that over the last four years, the Catholic high school has had their graduation ceremonies at two-and-one half hours, and never more than three hours.
“It's been short because we have 50-60 graduates and the only speeches are the Valedictorian, commencement speaker, governor, and Bishop Quinn Weitzel,” he said and noted ASG scholarships, community awards and distinguished student achievement awards will be presented on graduation day, June 1 starting at 10 a.m. at the Fatuoaiga Hall.
Three days later is the graduation for South Pacific Academy, whose principal Evelyn Lili’o-Satele said, “our graduations have always been no more than an hour, so longevity has never been a problem.” Graduation is set for 10 a.m. on June 3 at the school campus.
For public high schools, the first is Manu’a High on May 30 at 9 a.m. and the rest of the public high schools will be the week of June 3rd.
Hunkin-Finau says that there was some reluctance from parents about the change in public high school graduation ceremonies, but most parents understand the reason to keep the ceremonies short and simple.
“The reasons for these changes are economic, and the need to instill the importance of skillfully using time wisely in planning community events, especially events involving our government leaders,” she said. “Over the years, high school graduation ceremonies have emerged to be physically draining and socially unpleasant events due to poor planning.”
She also says that most of the PTAs and school administrators were accepting of these changes, while one school was reluctant to make the changes. “This is to be expected, but that should not deter us from making changes for the better,” she said, and didn’t identify the reluctant high school.
“The goal is to keep the time to a minimum... and that the graduation program clearly recognizes all the students graduating and not just the academically gifted,” Hunkin-Finau said, reiterating that the valedictorian will be recognized during the ceremony along with the parents.
Also for “economic reasons”, the ASDOE has told Early Childhood Education (ECE) and elementary school administrators and PTAs that graduation ceremonies for these levels should be discontinued.
In their place, the ASDOE director highly recommends short and well planned prize giving school assemblies.
Over the years there have been concerns raised by some family members over graduations at elementary schools because they have become just like high school graduations, but ASDOE officials in the past have left that issue up to school administrators and PTAs.