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Reporter’s Notebook: Graduation Brings Joy, Tears

The students and staff gather in the main hall of the school for graduation. Outside the rain that has threatened all day is falling in huge fat drops and pounding on the roof. Inside more than a hundred people have gathered.

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Robert “Nick” Nichols prepares for the class graduation.

Staff and instructors, students who are not yet graduating are lined up in their white shirts along one side and the graduating seniors all in black pants and t-shirts with identifying class marks they have designed themselves are seated on the other. Nick Nichols presides.

It’s clear that for all of the students and instructors having executives from the head office in Seattle witness the graduation is a big deal. Many of them have been with the school for many years, and having Stein Kruse, president and CEO, Dan Grausz, senior vice president, fleet operations, and Brendan Vierra, vice president, human resources, present gives them tangible proof of how important the school is to Holland America.

Stein is asked to say a few words before the ceremony begins, and he conveys what all have felt during the day – the importance of the school and the special qualities of the Indonesian crew that graduate from it contribute and have contributed in a major way to the success of the line’s 135-year maritime history.

Then it’s time for the graduation. Nothing has prepared us for this. As the diplomas are handed out to the first class, Assistant Steward Lido class 33, the chanting begins. In unison the men and women chant as each goes forward to claim their graduation papers. The energy and the sheer exuberance in the room are overwhelming. Over and over the chanting roars through the room literally drowning out the thunder outside. Then it time for the Housekeeping class 129 to receive their certificates. The chanting begins again. As each student receives their certificates they return to their seats and pore over the documents as if they want to make sure it’s all real.

Then one class leaves to prepare for something totally unexpected. They reappear in the doorway. The graduates are lined up with checkered cloths wrapped sarong-like around their waists. Another chant begins and they raise their arms above their bowed heads. Marching in unison they enter the area and form a circle. Two men enter assuming the roles of good and evil and proceed to fight over a female dancer. Each class chooses something for the ceremony, and this time it’s a portion of a “kecak” dance, which portrays part of the Ramayana. It is a powerful presentation and leaves everyone in awe of the spectacle.

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Now it’s time for Stein to present service awards. Lasmi, one of the cooks, gets a five-year award, Christine, who is Joost’s assistant, also gets a five-year award and Djunaedi, in security, receives a 15-year award.

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Djunaedi, a security guard, receives his 15-year award from Stein Kruse.

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A proud moment for everyone. Graduates pose after the graduation ceremony.

The ceremony is over, but Stein has one more duty before he can depart.

We go upstairs and Stein cuts the ribbon and dedicates the new PEP Crew Recreation Center.

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We all go in and without any more ceremony, students and graduates begin singing on the karaoke and a game of pool begins.

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It’s a fitting end to a day no one will soon forget.

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