ON CRUSADERS. Xavier Ateneo Senior High School graduates sing “On Crusaders” during their academic convocation on Sunday, March 18.

Text and photos by Angelo Lorenzo

In its 84 years of existence, Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan marks a new milestone as it celebrated its first commencement exercises for senior high graduates on Sunday, March 18, at the recently-opened Xavier Ateneo Sports Centre.

Xavier honored the academic achievements and track completion of the inaugural batch of the university’s SHS program, following the K-to-12 educational reform.

Graduates from the Accountancy and Business Management (ABM), General Academic (GAS), Humanities and Social Science (HUMSS), Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), and Technical, Vocational, and Livelihood (TVL) strands gathered at the gymnasium, with their parents and the university’s academic community. The graduation rites were slated on March 19 and 20 at the same venue.

This year’s batch sang a mash-up of “Never Enough” and “A Million Dreams” from the movie “The Greatest Showman” as their graduation song.

“Today, we give praise and thanks to God for the first-ever graduation of Xavier Ateneo Senior High,” university president Fr Roberto C Yap SJ said in his homily during the Baccalaureate Mass preceding the Commencement Exercises.

Although SHS has encompassed new classes and different teaching methods based on the curriculum provided by the Department of Education (DepEd), Xavier Ateneo’s SHS, like the rest of its levels, has integrated the Jesuit education in the formation of its students.

“Xavier Ateneo wants to provide not just a senior high education, but a Jesuit senior high reformation,” Yap added. “We strive to form persons for others.”

This year’s speaker inculcated the same message in his address dedicated to the graduates.

A distinguished figure in education

“I pray that you would grow in age and wisdom, grace and virtue throughout your college years – totally geared up to be ‘men and women for others,’” Br Armin Luistro FSC, former DepEd secretary and incumbent president of De La Salle Philippines, stated in his speech.

VISIONARY. Commencement speaker Br Armin Luistro FSC gives his speech during the Xavier Ateneo Senior High Commencement Exercises.

Luistro encouraged the graduates to explore “a variety of life directions – be it of love, work, and worldviews” in the next phase of their lives.

As the former DepEd secretary, Luistro took on the fundamental role in spearheading the implementation of the K-to-12 program with the vision for Filipino students to be given a quality education that will hone employable skills and guide them to discover and build on their vocation.

COMMON GROUND. Xavier Ateneo president Fr Roberto C Yap SJ (right) presents the Certificate of Appreciation to Br Armin Luistro FSC (left) following the latter’s speech that entails a common ground for Christian education enforced by both De La Salle and Ateneo universities.

Setting aside the rivalry mainly pulsating in sports between Ateneo and De La Salle, Luistro highlighted the common ground shared between the two sectarian universities, founded on Christian values that will guide the lives of the graduates to glorify God in the path they choose to take.

“With the distinguishing Xavier Ateneo brand, go forth and follow the same trajectory of our ever-expanding universe – from singularity to an ever-growing expanse unto that limitless space beyond our days,” he said.

“In an age of terrorism, fake news, and online hate speech, make a difference,” he advised. He further challenged the graduates to use their gifts for the greater good.

“If you can experience excellence here, you might as well choose to consider Mindanao not only as your birthplace but also your home,” he pointed out.

“Explore the world outside, but leave your heart at home in Mindanao.”

This was attested by class valedictorian Lynyrd Peras in his speech.

EXEMPLARY. Lynyrd Peras of the ABM track gives his valedictory address before the Xavier Ateneo academic community at first senior high school convocation on Sunday, March 18.

“Is there more to life than meeting deadlines?” Peras asked, particularly to his fellow graduates in his speech.

One of the first honors among those who graduated, Peras, who finished his ABM track with this recognition, summarized his message by giving his own meaning to the SHS acronym.

Success, History, Service (SHS)

“Success, History, and Service,” he said. “As we celebrate history today, we conclude our senior high experience by celebrating our academic success.”

Not discrediting the challenges he and his batch had faced, he elaborated that the education they received from Xavier Ateneo has tested their character which equipped them with the essential skills to excel in service to others.

“Most importantly, may our Atenean education inspire us to serve our communities in whatever capacity we have,” he said.

“May our experience as a pioneering batch serve as a guiding light for the next generation of students.”

For fellow graduate and class salutatorian Christalle Beatriz Seno of the STEM strand, the two-year experience as a senior high student may not have been easy, but it has fostered in them the formation to face the life ahead.

EXCELLENCE. Class salutatorian Christalle Beatriz Seno highlights, in her speech, her experience as a senior high student as vital to her growth as an Atenean.

“Today, we celebrate the things that matter to us – our dreams, our experiences, our family, our friends and our education,” she said.

ACHIEVEMENT. Senior High graduates, along with their teachers, the program’s administrators, some of the university’s staff, and their parents gather at the Xavier Ateneo Sports Complex to celebrate a new milestone and a historic occasion for the university.

Xavier Ateneo hopes that the senior high school graduates will share the challenges and lessons,  the essence of cura personalis and the value of magis to others as a new phase is about to unfold in their lives.

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