Last night, my school held its annual graduation ceremony for our Yr 12 students.

Hands down, it was the best one I had been to for a couple of reasons:

1) The musical performances were all phenomenal. Sometimes it is too easy to fall into the trap of being stuck in your own faculty (that is, if your faculty is not in Arts!) and miss seeing the creative talents of the students. Last night allowed all staff and students to really appreciate the incredible talent we had this year. The standing ovation for a student who is a classical singer and who performed “Anthem” was indicative of the high calibre of the students.

2) The main reason why this graduation will forever be stamped in my mind is because of a particular student who I consider one of the most inspirational people I have met. Soraj lost both his legs to a cluster mine when he was just nine years old and had been wheelchair bound since.
When he first enrolled at my school, he wrote a short column in our school newsletter introducing himself and sharing with the public how he came to be a double above the knee amputee.

Over the course of three years, he was able to complete his Yr 12 certificate with us while his family and friends were still in Afghanistan.

Soraj would often come into Emglish classes studying the Kite Runner and tell the students his story. When I was teaching resilience as part of my Positive Psychology unit, he was more than happy to be a guest speaker for my class and tell us how he kept persevering and fighting for himself and his education when his society wouldn’t.

Just after a year into his enrolment, our then Principal decided to look into the possibility of prosthetic legs for Soraj as it is much more difficult for above the knee amputees. When doctors confirmed that it could be done and gave estimates of the costs for the legs and therapy, the entire school community got together and made it happen.
Community organisations donated money, the Positive Psych class ran a trivia night that raised over $9000, the head teacher of Science and PE raised over $10,000 doing 100 Burpees everyday for 100 days and then an epic 1000 Burpees in under two hours! Another teacher raised a lot of money taking orders and cooking curry lunches each week for staff. In every school event, there were always a way to donate to the cause!

I remember vividly when I asked Soraj what he would like to put on the Trivia Night poster, he suggested “Fundraising for a boy who wants to walk to his mother”.

Soraj throughout the entire experience was so humbled and grateful. He never asked for help, but he had touched so many of the staff and students that we all wanted the same goal – for Soraj to walk across the stage and collect his Yr 12 Certificate.

Which brings me to last night, at the Canberra Centre, when I had the privilege of being onstage with the best view in the house to watched this magnificent young man, walk onstage to a standing ovation and collect the certificate that meant so much to him.

Scottie, who did the Burpees, recorded the moment and uploaded on his 100 Burpees Facebook page here:

Once in a while, you come across a person who teaches you, inspires you and who you will never ever forget.
It is even more amazing when that person is a student.