High School Graduation Ceremony: from Adolescence to Young Adulthood

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High School Graduation Ceremony: From Adolescence to Young Adulthood

In societies, when an individual shift from one social category to another, a ritual is used to distinguish this change. It is commonly known as a rite of passage, and its main purpose is to assuage the unease and risks associated in the alteration of categories.

An excellent example of a rite of passage is a High School Graduation Ceremony – it is one that most people who have completed their secondary education can identify with. This rite of passage involves mostly adolescents, and even though on the surface this ritual is used to signify the end of secondary schooling – underlying it is a recognition of teenagers becoming young adults.

In October 2005, Mt Lawley Senior High School held a Graduation in honour of their Year Twelve students. Logically, the ceremony began with the preliminal phase, with the students seated in a group, apart from teachers and families – effectively separating them symbolically, so that the participants of the ceremony recognized the discarded status of adolescence and high school students.

As the ceremony proceeded, the students entered what van Gennep called the ‘liminal rites' (van Gennep 1960, p.11). During this ‘period of transition' (Schultz & Lavenda 2005, p.167) outstanding students were presented certificates in recognition of their hard work, and then one by one in an ordered fashion, students receive their graduation certificate – symbolizing their transition from adolescence to adult, or from secondary student to any other category beyond.

Finally, the students are reunited with families and allowed to mingle with their teachers. Reaggregation takes place, and former adolescents and high school students are reintroduced to their new positions as young adults and as graduates of their secondary school (Schultz & Lavenda 2005, p. 167). The sharing of food and drink with the rest of the social group affirms and welcomes them to their new...
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