5 Ways to Celebrate Your Students

This year calls for unique celebrations. In this week's Give Me Five, we’re sharing resources to support you as the year comes to an end, so you can finish strong and really celebrate your students.

By Hana Beach

Congratulations! The 2020-21 school year is finally coming to an end—and we know that all of you need some time to rest and recharge to tackle the next school year with the same tenacity as you did this year. All year, we’ve watched educators and students meet unprecedented challenges with unprecedented creativity and resolve. From all of us at XQ, we want to say a huge congratulations to YOU, the teachers who have adapted and persevered to be there for students. You are incredible. 

In this week’s Give Me Five, we’re sharing resources to support you as the year comes to an end, so you can finish strong and really celebrate your students. We know that the end of school and graduation will look really different in schools across the country. With that in mind, the resources here are geared towards all teachers! They’ll help you plan celebrations that are truly meaningful, through centering students, building community, and looking towards the future.

We are SO excited to invite seniors to participate in the official XQ Yearbook! This year, we’re aiming to include as many students as possible to make the largest digital yearbook, ever. Encourage your students to join by adding an image and quote that encapsulates what this year has meant to them. 

Why It Matters: We know that students have had a hard year. To help create a sense of community and camaraderie in an isolating year, we’ve created this yearbook in partnership with the Inside Out Project. It is an opportunity for them to come together in community and make something truly special. We’ve designed the yearbook to:

  • Support student mental health (for every valid submission, we’re donating $2 up to $1 million in support of student mental health)
  • Bring this class of seniors together in nation-wide community
  • Empower students to tell the story of this year in their own words

Extra Credit: Check out last year’s inaugural Graduate Together Yearbook, and get inspired by the 18,000 photos submitted!

Once all the tests are taken and final projects are turned in, graduating seniors face an even bigger challenge: imagining life after high school! With the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, supporting them in that transition is more important for this year’s graduating class. 

Why It Matters: Your seniors may need encouragement in imagining their dream career, or they may need help making a college budget. Whatever the case, we built this resource blog to answer seniors’ most pressing questions, covering topics like:

  • Job planning and financial literacy
  • Preparing for college during a pandemic
  • Staying creatively connected after high school
  • Engaging communities through activism
  • Celebrating graduation

Extra Credit: For even more resources to get your students excited about their future, check out the videos, tools, and tips on our graduate resource page!

If you’re wondering what graduation might look like this year, you’re not alone! Teen Vogue put together a comprehensive look at what to expect on the big day.

Why It Matters: Your seniors may be imagining the moment of walking across the stage and getting their diploma for years. With a little preparation, you can help them reframe their expectations, and find new ways to give them the celebration they deserve! Here are some places to start:

  • Make space for seniors to express disappointment and loss
  • Listen to what your students value most in graduation—closure, recognition, community—and build from there
  • Start finding ways to celebrate seniors early, not just on their actual graduation day

Extra Credit: 28 Fun Ways to Celebrate the End of the School Year from a Distance

Graduation can be a moment to highlight outstanding student achievement, and many schools do so by focusing on what colleges their students are attending. But that doesn’t always reflect the full story. 

Why It Matters: Given the many complex economic and structural factors that go into how students and families make decisions about college, focusing too much on the name-recognition of where seniors are going to college can be alienating to graduating seniors. As a teacher, you can spotlight other kinds of student achievement, including: 

  • Artistic work
  • Contributions students have made to their school or larger community
  • Progress students have made during their time in high school

Extra Credit: For students looking for inspiration in an unlikely career path, check out What Happened after High School | Grace Huang | TEDxYouth@ICA.

As we celebrate the class of 2021, we also have to acknowledge the toll the past year has taken on seniors’ abilities to plan for the future. The pandemic has disrupted the college application and preparation process, especially for low-income and first generation students. The good news is, it’s not too late to act. 

Why It Matters: Last newsletter, we talked about all the ways the American Rescue Plan can help students. This week, take a look at these recommendations for how ARP funding can specifically support college readiness, including:

  • Promoting FAFSA completion
  • Investing in virtual advising for students
  • Collecting data from seniors about their highest needs for support

Extra Credit: Keep your students motivated with Michelle Obama’s Best Advice For Students | How To Succeed In Life!

XQ is partnering with world-renowned dancer-activist Misty Copeland to bring you the Dance and Activism Challenge! Students ages 13 to 21 can join the challenge to get access to an exclusive XQ video series, available on any device. With Misty as their mentor, students will choreograph and submit an original dance that highlights an issue that matters to them, with the potential to win prizes and join a community of makers! 

This challenge officially launched on May 19th! All genres of movement are welcome. You can find more information and instructions for how to sign up here. The challenge closes for submissions on June 9th, so encourage your students to get moving!