Currently, only two of Walpole High’s extracurricular groups wear formal accessories on graduation day: National Honors Society (NHS) wears stoles, while seniors in student council wear “leadership” cords. Graduation cords consist of twisted ropes with tassels on each end, while stoles and sashes are a wide ribbon that is worn around a graduate’s shoulders. There is no official policy that outlines which clubs can and cannot wear cords and sashes; however, some clubs have been turned down after asking administration to implement them. Now, as graduation approaches this year, there is a possibility that graduation organizers will not allow any students to wear these vestments, as some believe they lack inclusivity since the majority of the senior class is in neither NHS nor student council.
Despite claims that honor cords and stoles are exclusive to various graduates, these accessories should be worn because they award students for their dedication to an activity and add more meaning to the high school graduation ceremony.
These celebrative decorations are not meant to exclude others. Rather than only two organizations wearing special vestments, students of any school-affiliated club should have the opportunity to wear a cord over their robe at Walpole High’s graduation. Whether it be speech and debate team, drama club, mock trial or science olympiad, students in all of Walpole High’s various clubs should be able to display their achievements on graduation day.
For example, former high school senior Claudia Lambert of Palos Verde High School was able to decorate her cap and gown with various honor cords. Like many students, Lambert was a part of many clubs, such as the literary magazine, yearbook committee, and school newspaper.
Graduation at its simplicity is meant to reflect students’ high school careers and yes, high school, at its simplicity, is education and academics. However, for most students, high school is more than going to class every day. Most Walpole high students can be involved in at least one, if not more, of the dozens of extracurricular activities offered. Being a part of these clubs often requires countless hours of work, and maybe even require more work than one’s academic classes at times. Just as a diploma is awarded to a student at graduation for passing their classes throughout their four years, an honor cord awards students for putting in time and effort to a specific organization. Therefore, Walpole High commencement should be more than just handing out a diploma; rather, the ceremony should recognize the highlights of all involved students’ high school careers, rather than only giving out a few scholarships to the clubs’ officers. Giving clubs the opportunity to wear a specific cord along with the traditional cap and gown allows graduates to be recognized for both their accomplishments in academia and their accomplishments in extracurricular activities, thus reflecting the student’s entire high school career.
Graduation is not only a time to award students for their hard work. Graduation is also a time for reflecting on the many memories spent with classmates and faculty throughout seniors’ four years. For most, many of these memories are spent outside the classroom and within their extracurriculars. Decorating the graduation cap and gown with cords and stoles from all clubs will allow students to carry their memories from high school with them as they graduate from Walpole High School.
If all clubs implemented an honor cord on graduation, some might argue that this still excludes, since there are students who are not a part of any extra curricular clubs. However, although some clubs are exclusive (i.e. NHS and student council), there are still a variety of activities offered at Walpole High that are open to all students. A student’s decision to refrain from joining any of these programs should not prohibit others from displaying their accomplishments outside academics at graduation. By abstaining from inclusive extracurricular activities, one chooses to not be recognized for accomplishments in such clubs at graduation. Therefore, students who choose to participate in these activities should be able to display their membership through honor cords without criticism.
It is completely justified that WHS has decided to wear gender-neutral gowns at graduation every year. Walpole High students, whether they are male, female, transgender or other, may not be comfortable wearing the assigned color of their sex if it is not their true identity. However, joining extracurriculars are inclusive to everyone; therefore, wearing stoles and honor cords does not exclude others. Even so, allowing clubs to implement their own cords is more inclusive than sole two clubs wearing them now.