The seven New York pilgrims who made the trip to Haiti to help celebrate the first graduation ceremony of College Pierre Toussaint in Sassier at the end of June came home with a rich store of memories from their experience. These range from the alluring beauty of the Haitian countryside to the striking poverty in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.
But the overwhelming impression was one of awe at the graduating class they met there, their perseverance, dedication and the importance they place on the value of education.
The seven were: Karen Frederick, a parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo in Harlem; Fred Garcia, also a parishioner at St. Charles Borromeo and director of communications for the archdiocesan Office of Black Ministry (OBM); Monge Codio, director of operations for archdiocesan CYO who was born in Haiti; Leah Dixon, OBM administrative assistant and coordinator of the Pierre Toussaint Program; Aulina Presendieu, a graduate student in social work at New York University who is also Haitian by birth; Brother Tyrone Davis, C.F.C., OBM executive director; and this reporter. They traveled to the remote village in rural southwestern Haiti from Port-au-Prince to witness the historic ceremony.
“They were so excited and ecstatic,” said Ms. Dixon of the graduates. “When we stood there and gave them their (graduation) medals we really saw how much it meant to them because they had those medals on for the rest of the day. They took off their caps and gowns and they still had them on, they went partying that night and they still had them on.”
Garcia added, “You knew these kids were really proud of their school and so were their families. You got a sense of how important education is to them.”