A graduation celebration at the Terra Santa School in Bethlehem

A crowded room of teachers, parents and families gathered to honor the students of the Terra Santa College in Bethlehem for the day of graduation. Fifty-eight students completed their literary, scientific or hotel management studies.
The graduation ceremony took place in the school’s large auditorium. The graduates sat on the stage, dressed in the typical academic gown. After a few thank-you speeches, with background music and pomp and circumstance, they were called one by one to publicly receive their diploma. The emotion was great in the room, between the cameras and the many applauses. “It is an important day for the children because they have reached an important milestone,” explained Br. Marwan, director of the school. “They do not all want to go to college, but they all want a better future and this is the stepping stone for a better future.”
After the ceremony, refreshments and food were offered by the school to celebrate the event. “I spent some very beautiful years here,” said a former student present for the occasion. The same joy is seen in the laughter of the young people, full of euphoria because of the end of the school year and satisfaction for achieving their goals. Rhami said, “I did scientific studies because I want to become a doctor; my whole family has come, and my sister is here right next to me. This has been a complicated but very beautiful year.
This year, for the first time, the Terra Santa School in Bethlehem has offered students the possibility of doing a hotel management focus, with new opportunities to cultivate their passions. Teachers teach the more typical pedagogical subjects, such as Arabic and English, while for other subjects, the instructors have more practical experience, such as being maître d’s, and one is even one of the most well known chefs in Bethlehem, bringing with them their expertise. There was a lot of satisfaction, despite some challenges, as Br. Marwan explained, “It was kind of hard, especially at the end because the students were disoriented. Everything was new for them: they had written and oral examinations, as well as practical examinations. They were afraid to fail, but they did great.” Once they completed high school, the students were not left to their own devices: “We offer them two future opportunities: at the University of Bethlehem for hotel management studies and at the Real Academy, a school in Jordan for students who wish to become chefs. For both of those programs of study, students will be accepted if they pass the entrance exam, but I believe they are ready.”
The Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, was also present to celebrate the graduation: “Without a good school, there can be neither a future for these young people nor a future for the country where they live. The Custos, present at the same ceremony for the schools in Jericho and Jerusalem, was enthusiastic about the work he had done and spoke about the value of the school. “The real examination is always that of life,” he said, “but if you have learned that through commitment and hard work you can get results, you will clench your teeth at the right time you and will gather the fruits of your labor. “At school, we learn to think about not being manipulated: school becomes a place where we overcome the prejudices we may have about the different origins. Fr. Patton concluded, “In an environment like this, school becomes one of the most important contributions to peace.”

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