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Students talk about UWC's strengths

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By Don Pace

One student talked about how she didn’t trust anyone after growing up during a civil war. That’s when she found out about United World College.

On Saturday, the local school held its graduation, as always celebrating it with the cultures of the participating students.

Vietnamese student To Nhu Huynh said, “It seems like every day there is something new to explore and you are always amazed at how the people and the place changes you in incredible ways.”

The African Chorus led dignitaries and students, in what has become a traditional procession, beginning commencement ceremonies. Flags from many nations around the world brighten the landscape with the stately Montezuma Castle as the backdrop.

President Lisa Darling welcomed a large crowd and later told the Optic, “What an extraordinary group of students and they give me such hope for the world. It’s hard to let them go though. We love them so.”

Darling said it’s also hard for the students who are receiving their diplomas.

“It’s an awesome experience, this United World College thing. It’s so intense and so powerful, it’s hard to part from. But they never fully leave us as Jim Taylor (outgoing chairman of the board) said, we think of it as two years to start their lifelong commitment. They will be back, and they’ll be in touch with each other and they will make a difference in the world.”

In his remarks, Taylor remembered some of the history that has been made through the years beginning with founder Armand Hammer, who had to lengthen the landing strip at the Las Vegas airport to accommodate his 737 aircraft.

“Hammer’s finest moments, as far as I’m concerned, were those days of founding this school,” Taylor said.

Taylor noted many of the graduation speakers through the years, including Prince Charles, Queen Noor of Jordan, Malcolm Forbes and Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby).

Eboo Patel gave the graduation address and got a laugh from the audience when he recalled the previous evening’s entertainment.

“I will remember last night for the rest of my life,” he said. “It was a reminder for me that beauty in its purest forms comes in music and dance and poetry. Your president Lisa sat next to me and told me the names and the countries of every young person who came on stage. At one point, she said, Hong Kong, Romania, Malaysia, and I said, how does the Romanian girl know Chinese songs? Lisa shrugged as if that happens here all the time,” Patel said.

Nepal student Jenny Thapa said she lived the first 16 years of life through a civil war in her country. She said during that time, peace was an idea that was foreign to her.

“The worst part about being in a civil war is you learn not to trust even your country mates, let alone the people in the rest of the world,” Thapa said. “I knew I wanted a different life, I wanted to trust people, I wanted to live in peace and harmony, I wanted to live without fear, I wanted to fight a war against war, but I was against taking up arms to fight because wars with arms don’t end in peace.

“I then learned about the United World Colleges, I learned that they fight a war for peace with peace. After joining the UWC, I learned to trust people and celebrate the differences — here at UWC, differences are called uniqueness,” Thapa said.

However, Thapa said as time passed, students realized that the college is not a utopia.

“The UWC is a wonderful place, but it has also taught us that nothing is perfect in this world, that’s why we strive to make the world better. Despite out intelligence and maturity, we are still teenagers in high school and we experienced times of stress, sleeplessness and homesickness. But this was all part of finding our own strengths and weaknesses and learning to channel them in a way that would end up making us more determined and strong to make a difference in the lives of people who are still not able to trust other people,” Thapa said.