AJA Celebrates Class of 2018 Graduates
by Robyn Lindenberg
Austin Jewish Academy marked the end of its 21st year with the graduation of its eighth grade class on May 30 at the Jewish Community Center.
Throughout their years at AJA, students engage in hands-on, collaborative project-based learning, grounded by the strength of a caring communal environment. They mark their progress and growth in numerous milestone events such as the first grade Cultures Fair, the fifth grade poetry slam and Jewish studies milestone celebrations.
In second grade, students demonstrate their Jewish learning and exploration at the Kabbalat Shabbat Ceremony. Third grade students receive a chumash at the Chumash Ceremony, marking the beginning of their text study. One of the most popular events is the twice yearly Portfolio Day, when students demonstrate their mastery of school work for their parents, teachers and community panelists.
Perhaps the most momentous milestone celebration at AJA is the eighth grade class graduation. It is a special time of reflection as graduates look back upon their journey and the school community celebrates their growth.
One student, when asked to reflect on AJA’s influence, said, “Community at AJA means a lot for me. Ever since I was in kindergarten here, I felt welcomed and safe, and always had a friend by my side. Community means being together through the good and the bad.
It means feeling safe and special. It means feeling like you matter. Feeling like one day, you may just have an impact on this world because these people made an impact on you. Knowing that if you fall, someone will catch you and lift you back up again.”
AJA’s community, made up of students, teachers, staff, parents and supporters, provides guidance and support from the first day of kindergarten through graduation.
Another student who attended AJA from kindergarten through eighth grade reflected, “The most empowering thing that the AJA has given me was my leadership skills. Because of the AJA, I am more confident in speaking to new people I don’t know. Also, I take charge of the situation I am in to be a more heard voice. Many people ask, ‘How do you do it? How do you always take charge of a situation?’ And my answer is always, ‘Because my school taught me.’”
One of the benefits of attending a small school with a project-based learning curriculum is the focus on student empowerment and creating meaningful connections in students’ lives and learning.
When asked how AJA impacted her, another student said, “Going to the Austin Jewish Academy has made me perceive the world of Judaism much differently. It has made me understand how special and amazing being Jewish is. The Austin Jewish Academy has immersed me and my classmates in the deep roots of our heritage and history. They provide a weekly Torah service which really helped me in preparing for my bat mitzvah. But it’s not only just about being Jewish, it’s about making lifelong connections and making best friends. I have been with the people in my class for nine years, kindergarten to eighth grade. And no matter where we go to high school, we will always be connected.”
Another graduate reflected, “I see this school as a place where I can be me. In the environment that this school provides, I have stepped so far out of my comfort zone I can’t even see it anymore.”
During the nine-year span from kindergarten through grade 8, children deserve a relevant, rigorous and joyful academic and co-curricular program. AJA’s community of families and teachers raises our students to be today’s accomplished, innovative thinkers and tomorrow’s compassionate problem-solvers and leaders. ■
For more information about Austin Jewish Academy visit their website at www.austinjewishacademy.org. AJA is now accepting applications to kindergarten through eighth grade for the 2018-2019 school year. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a tour or attend an admissions event.