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Obama's High School and its colourful graduation ceremony
Barack Obama comes from the State of Hawaii. After 12 years at Punahou High School he graduated as a star student. The celebrity wall at the school has his signature. It also bears the signature of a person of Indian origin, Rama Watumull, an alumnus of the school, and one of its chief endower.

As luck would have it, our two grandchildren also studied at the same school. Admission is tough, as it demands not only good academic record, but also extracurricular achievements. Equally important, weightage is given to student's record of community service. I have noticed that right from Kindergarten a sense of duties towards the local community is instilled in the children. Our granddaughter graduated from Punahou in 2015.

Grandparents are especially encouraged to attend the elaborate graduation ceremonies. I am so glad that both of us attended the graduation ceremonies, which last almost two months. I have attended many graduations, including mine. But nothing could compare with what we saw this time.

The festivities kick off with a 2-day Fun Fair, which is entirely organised by the students, without the involvement of school administration or faculty. There are games, food stalls, all cooked by the students and sale of art objects. This is a city event and all proceeds go to the community. Next comes an evening of concerts of music, ballet, plays etc. all performed by students. Proceeds go for charities.

A few weeks later, there is hugely attended program of hula dances from the different Hawaiian Islands - for each island has its distinctive style of hula. All these are performed by the students. The final one is performed by the faculty and the president. The whole proceedings are very joyous and colourful.

Still a few weeks later comes the Commencement attended by the outgoing class and parents, which is held in a large church. As not all visitors can be accommodated inside, large screens are placed in other rooms and the lawn.

After the elevating church music and prayers, the valedictory address is always given by an outgoing student who is physically and other wise challenged. Everyone was in tears, as the boy haltingly spoke about how he could not speak at all, because of his handicap. How the school attended to his special needs and made him capable of even giving the valedictory address !

Finally, the day of graduation comes which is held in the city's largest auditorium. It is televised live and also streamed on internet. This way relatives can see live, in any part of the world. Sprinkled with music, students are handed over their certificates.

The real big events follows: One by the students with their certificates go over to the hall across, which is equally big. Here all the invited family and friends garland the student with Leis (Hawaiian garlands). Other city friends, who were waiting with their tickets, also come in. Naturally, proceeds of the tickets going to charity.

In the huge melee, it is difficult to spot the student one is looking for. So on the walls big letters 'A', "B', 'C' etc are spread out. Even under each alphabet the crows is so large, so each student's some family member hold on a stick a poster of the students photo. That's only way you can locate whom you want to garland. Those done the parents and friends go home. And the outgoing students and their teachers stay behind for an all night merry making. They are picked up early at 5.00 a.m.

After a couple of days, it's the Dean's Day, when all students bring home cooked food and gifts as thanks giving for the deans, who have been their mentors for 12 years. As the class moves up, the dean also moves up with the class. So for their entire schooling, their mentor remains the same. He knows the student and the family and counsels them all along. It is the most emotional moment for everyone.

A couple of days later, the last activity takes place when students spend the day at the beach house in games and music. A DVD is prepared in which each student dances as the music plays along. Copy of this DVD is given to each student, so that they can recall decades later, how their classmates looked. I had never expected such a two month long treat, in the name of graduation! It was flowers, music and dance all he way.

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