For the past three years, the Beirut Baptist School has been prayerfully and intentionally deepening its longstanding commitment to educating students as whole persons. This process has involved investments in the latest science equipment and interactive technology, but at its heart, the direction that BBS has been taking is guided by a desire to be ever more centered on the individual learner as a gift and resource in all his or her precious uniqueness.

This was the main message heard by all who gathered at the Emile Lahoud Convention Center on June 9 to celebrate the first major milestone in the lives of ninety-four preschoolers. After the ceremony was opened with the National Anthem, a prayer and the school’s Alma Mater, Vice Principal of Academics, Alice Wazir, expressed the school’s belief in the God-given worth and potential of all children with a quote by Stacia Tauscher: “We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.”

“It is our responsibility to shape our children’s futures, but let us not worry about tomorrow – your children are already as unique as a fingerprint,” Wazir insisted, echoing the event’s overarching theme of celebrating children as stars. “In the last three years, BBS has been developing in this direction: to encourage our students to better understand and accept themselves. So please do not compare your children to anyone. Rather, let them dream.”

Children’s entertainer and master of ceremonies, Ghinwa, emphasized this learner-centered ethos – this belief in education as an outgrowth of the appreciation and nurturing of what children already bring into the world – by addressing parents as a mother herself, saying: “Your children are stars. As they discover their talents, it is our duty to be proud of their strengths and assist them in their weaknesses.”

Putting this conviction into practice, the ceremony featured the graduates of K3 performing various dance routines led by Ghinwa with a colorful cast of dancers and characters, and a valedictorian speech presented in Arabic and English by Dala Shreim, Sophia Caldwell and Majd Mokaddem, who concluded by saying: “We are ready to meet the challenges of the big kid school. Grade one, here we come!”

The 2017 Preschool Graduation was also a poignant opportunity to honor the outgoing Director of the Preschool Division, Gigi Awabdeh, who had served the school and the community for the past 17 years. Wazir thanked Awabdeh for her leadership with audible emotion, adding: “This is the first time I graduate students and their directors at the same time, so congratulations Ms. Gigi.”

Chief Executive Officer of LSESD, Dr. Nabil Costa, thanked Awabdeh as well, highlighting the bittersweet taste of saying goodbye to a valuable member of the BBS family, adding: “The biggest asset of any institution is its staff, and Gigi led by example.” Dr. Costa then introduced the new preschool director, Mrs. Nahy Moussa, and re-emphasized the broad mission of the school: “We work to shape a complete graduate profile, which is why we are striving to be innovative from KG to Grade 12. We are investing in e-learning and a special needs center so that every child can have a place at BBS.”

For her part, Awabdeh thanked the school, saying: “I grew up at BBS and will always be its daughter.” She went on to underline the central message of the day: “We teach our children self-esteem, so that they know that they are free. We teach them to discover, and to develop their critical thinking. It is our role as parents to encourage them to keep trying. Their future is based on the confidence you build in them.”

With a burst of confetti and balloons, and a toss of their little white caps, BBS welcomed its graduating class of 2017 into the next twelve years of their young lives. They in turn greeted this “happy beginning” with a final hymn sung in both French and Arabic, praying in unison: “Dear God, thank you for loving me. Because you know my heart, I put my trust in you. We put our new life in your hands.”

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