Since the summer of 2017, Junyi School of Innovation’s junior and senior high school graduates are required to participate in the graduation presentation. The topic has no limits, and presentations are not graded. Similar to a TED talk, graduates present on topics they are passionate about in a span of a few minutes. The project was initiated in hopes that before graduation, students can take the time to reflect and learn deeper about oneself, to have the opportunity to work with oneself through the challenges, and most importantly to express and truly be oneself. In four days, a variety of topics from friendship, family relationships to cultural identity, the environment, social relationships, technology, bullying, future career and more were covered. While the majority of students presented using a PowerPoint presentation, others presented self-made videos, made cocktails, and even performed musical instruments. Each student shared bravely and engaged with the audience answering questions and listening to feedback and encouragement. This story features the presentations of four students, with their identities disguised.
Student 1: Discovering roots through a name “A name is the first gift we receive in life,” the 9th grader said. As an Amis native, she confessed her insecurities with her name from the negative stereotypes Taiwan indigenous peoples receive. She didn’t want to be associated with excessive drinking, smoking, or beetle-nut chewing; she didn’t want to be pre-judged because of a name. For her presentation, she had students, teachers, village elders fill in questionnaires about what a name means to each of them. Through the answers, she found the value in a name, she found that a name could often even reflect a certain time period in history. She uncovered how her own name connected her to her ancestors and culture; she uncovered that for some, who lived through the Japanese occupation era had Japanese names. Through her name, she learned about her family history, realized her cultural identity and formed a new appreciation. She now sees her name as a gift and a blessing.
Student 2: Individual beauty In a different school, the 9th grader, who has a noticeable birthmark on her body used to be made fun of and identified as ‘the girl with the birthmark’. In swimming lessons, she would cover her birthmark and shy away. After attending Junyi, she found her identity shifted. Her passion for dance had her join the after-school street dance club. She found that at Junyi, peers see her not as ‘the girl with the birthmark’, but as ‘the girl who street dances well’. Through the club she gained self-confidence, and no longer shied away. Her mother who was in the audience shared that she saw the positive change in her daughter and believes a vital part of the change is due to the culture of Junyi – that every individual has something worthy to be appreciated.
Student 3: Bullying The Junyi culture values counselling, and offers the support students need with encouragement and without judgement from teachers and peers. Junyi nurtures its students to have the ability to ask for help when needed. Before sharing her experiences of being bullied in her previous school before attending Junyi, she questioned her courage to share on the topic. With help from the school Counsellor, she was able to practice her speech and discover the stories she felt most fragile and uncertain to share. Recognizing her own insecurities, she challenged herself to express her stories and feelings with peers.
Students 4: Inspired future career She shared on the time when her mother fell ill and underwent rehabilitation and her experiences of being the caretaker. She witnessed her mother losing her basic independence – the ability to eat and drink on her own. They received help from an Occupational Therapist; and through months of observation, it is a profession she aspires in. She shared that the job of an Occupational Therapist is not to only care for the patient, but to look after family members ensuring their mental wellbeing and fulfilling basic needs. In her future, she plans to pursue advanced studies in Occupational Therapy in the United States, Canada, the UK or Australia to help rehabilitate people back into daily living and to have better quality in life. She hopes to help patients rebuild their confidence and reconnect them back into society as the one that had helped her mother. Audiences often forget the young ages of the students because of the maturity and reasoning of the topics. The Junyi graduation presentation gives all students the opportunity to express themselves regardless of their grade levels and personalities. Every student has the opportunity to shine and share their best self.