Diplomas, awards, speeches and a delicious lunch were the order of the day as five ZOE students graduated from the 6th Grade at the brand new, private Christian school they attend in northern Thailand. Greater than the pomp and circumstance however was the assurance that ZOE’s children are not only receiving a good education, but are excelling in their pursuit of scholastic and moral excellence.
The school has about 50 students in grades one through six, 31 of whom are ZOE kids. During the graduation ceremony, awards were given out for achievements in academics and character development. Students in all grades were eligible for these awards and six of the seven presentations were made to ZOE students.
Ten-year-old Pink won an Academic Excellence award. Pink has been with ZOE for two years and has grown almost a foot taller in that time. But more importantly, she has grown in her love of studying and learning.
Aem was singled out among the school’s students with the Moral Excellence citation. Only 12, Aem is well-known at ZOE for his integrity and determination to “do it right.” We discovered his love of music and his natural talent the day he arrived at ZOE when, for the first time in his life, he sat down at a set of drums and in minutes was playing a toe-tapping beat.
A second Academic Excellence certificate was presented to 10-year-old Gaan. No surprise because Gaan is a very intelligent boy. What may surprise you though, is his well-developed sense of humor! Quick and witty, Gaan soon has any group, including adults, laughing out loud. Yet he is known for his tender and caring heart, especially for the little ones at ZOE including his baby sister.
Winner of the Most Responsible Student was Kay. Around ZOE, 12-year-old Kay is considered a thinker. She is quick to listen and slow to speak, but when she talks, people listen because what she shares is likely to be meaningful. She is quite proficient at English and very protective of her younger sister.
Best Manners commendation was given to Aoy. At 14, Aoy now graduates from 6th Grade and moves to middle school in May. She has been with ZOE almost from our beginning and is quiet, respectful, and considered by all as a beloved big sister.
Gee was named the Most Helpful Student. But there is a lot more to his story. When he came to ZOE he had never been to school. Students in Thai schools are often placed by ability not age. Most schools require documentation from the Thai Ministry of Education verifying that a student has completed the previous grade before allowing the child to be placed in the next higher grade. We enrolled Gee in school with his peers but keeping up was a struggle. On his own, he approached us and asked that he be sent to a lower grade to help him catch up. After consulting with school staff, Gee was placed in a lower grade. At the beginning of the school year, he scored 10 out of 25 on his English proficiency test. At year’s end, he hit 23 out of 25, earning him the school’s Most Improved in English award as well! The school teachers and administrators also report that not only has Gee’s English improved exponentially, but so has his attitude and self-esteem.
After the ceremony ZOE’s Educational Director, Michelle Brekhus, had a chance to chat with the school’s English teacher. Khruu (teacher) J and her husband moved to Thailand a year ago to help out with the new school. Like so many “one year missionaries,” they have decided to stay for a second year. Khruu J began to cry as she recounted the tremendous progress she has seen in the ZOE kids in just one year. She told Michelle that all but one of the most improved students in her class were ZOE students. She was clearly moved and touched by the opportunity to teach the ZOE children.