Lower Merion High School recently hosted Rites of Passage – a special ceremony formally honoring the graduating class of students in the Becton Scholars Program – as classmates, family and friends gathered outside in the Art Wing Atrium to celebrate this year's seniors with remarks from teachers and administrators; presentations of awards and superlatives; great food and music; and the Kente Ceremony.
In African tradition, rites of passage are timeless rituals marking and celebrating important life transitions; holistic development of the individual or group; and changes in a person's status, roles and responsibilities. These ceremonies also can serve as an opportunity to recognize that entry into adult life involves the realization of social obligations and the assumption of responsibility for meeting those obligations.
The program opened with welcoming and congratulatory remarks from Becton Scholars Advisor Saleema Smith, followed by Diversity Coordinator Taj Byrd, who provided some inspiring words while lauding the efforts and achievements of this year's graduating class. LMHS English teacher Tyler Goodwin and Harriton Chemistry teacher Nate Bantoe, who serves as the sponsor for the District's National Society of Black Engineers Chapter, also had the opportunity to address the Becton Scholars and attest to their tremendous achievements during their time at Lower Merion.
Towards the end of the ceremony, each Becton Scholar received a special Kente cloth stole. This beautiful and symbolic sartorial item is one of the most important and widely recognized African textiles. The cloth's provenance dates back 375 years to the Ashanti and Ewe tribes of the west African nation of Ghana. The colors of the Kente cloth were originally made from different trees that created the red, green and yellow dyes. Thread would then be soaked in the dyes and woven together to create prepossessing fabrics for the king and other tribal royalty. In modern times, the wearing of Kente cloth has become widespread to commemorate special occasions and is associated with success, high status and cultural sophistication.
Prior to the event's conclusion, students surprised longtime Becton Scholars Advisor Saleema Smith with flowers and a tiara before expressing effusive praise for her tireless dedication and years of service as an educator and mentor in the LMHS community. Mrs. Smith recently announced she will be retiring from her position in the near future.
Congratulations to the Becton Scholars' Class of 2021 and best of luck in your future endeavors!
Becton Scholars: Akinyele Adebamgbe, Maia Cabanas, Ari Charmont, Kylie Ferguson, Arnold Haynes, Ayana Jackson, DShawn Jemison, Devon Mooring, Matin Morrison, Elijah Philippe, Celine Thomas Phillip, Tiani Washington, Zachary Wong, Maximus Forster