DILIJAN, Armenia — On May 28, the international school United World College (UWC) Dilijan held commencement ceremonies for the first graduating class of the school. In total, 95 students from 48 countries who were admitted in 2014 to the new school in the UWC network in Armenia bade farewells to the school and to the town of Dilijan, which for two years had been their home.
“Two years ago when we had students’ induction welcoming the class of 2016, I said to them, ‘it will go in a flash’. And here we are now meeting to send them on their way in friendship, joy and expectation,” said John Puddefoot, founding headmaster of UWC Dilijan school, at the opening of the commencement ceremony entitled ‘Beginnings’.
Co-founder and chair of the Board of Governors of UWC Dilijan school, Veronika Zonabend thanked the first graduating class, and their teachers, for energizing the school, for laying the foundation of its traditions, and for establishing a high level of education that earned the graduating students entry to the best universities in the world.
“Ruben and I are delighted that our dream, which seemed an impossible task at the beginning, was brought to life thanks to our partners, people who felt as we did, putting their trust and support into the project. Through our combined strength, the first international school in the post-Soviet landscape has opened in Dilijan. I hope that the school’s first graduates will continue to strive towards their dreams, have the strength and courage to reach their goals, that they are never afraid to seek help and refuse to rest on their laurels, that they can change themselves and the world around them. Be happy and make those around them happy, and help fulfill their dreams.” Zonabend encouraged.
The school’s graduates successfully passed their IB Diploma examinations, and will continue their studies prestigious universities such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, U.C. Berkeley, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Wesleyan University, University College London, the London School of Economics, the University of Edinburgh and Minerva Schools, amongst others.
The graduates were presented with Armenian flags and souvenirs in the shape of the Armenian alphabet to remind them of Armenia. The graduating students then presented sprouting pomegranate trees in glass containers to each of the UWC Dilijan donors, symbolizing their growth and development during their time at the school as well as their gratitude for the generous support that made a first-class education possible.
Gagik Adibekyan, one of the founding patrons of UWC Dilijan, and chairman of the Board of Directors of RD Group, gave a farewell speech to the students, wishing them success in the next stage of their lives and presented the school with an award won by UWC Dilijan at the 2016 FIABCI World Prix d’Excellence Awards worldwide competition for development projects.
The final speech of the ceremony was made by Noubar Afeyan a founding patron of UWC Dilijan and Managing Partner, CEO of Flagship Ventures.
“I would say to you what I say to my four children. Make peace with disappointment. We spend most of time trying to avoid disappointment but by doing so we preclude things that might actually lead to acceleration, value creation and changing the world,” Afeyan said. “I would also like to add that we hope that every graduate from this school dedicates a small piece of their future lives to UWC Dilijan keeping connected and supported, and keep giving advice, as we want your experience to be something to share with the future generations.”
The students and teachers livened up the farewell speeches from the donors with impressive performances. Following the commencement ceremonies, the graduates gathered for the opening ceremony of the alumni garden when Armenian students planted the last of the 48 trees, symbolizing the number of nationalities represented by the UWC Dilijan graduating class of 2016.
More than 400 guests took part in the ceremony, which included 40 of the school’s donors, 170 of the student’s parents as well as invited guests from embassies represented in Armenia.
The graduation ceremony ended with a public concert at the Dilijan stadium, performed by the founding patron of UWC Dilijan, businessman, philanthropist and musician Vladimir Avetissian, who entertained UWC Dilijan students, local residents and guests.
During the 2016-2017 academic year UWC Dilijan will be led by its new director, Denise Davidson, formerly Deputy Head at Mount St. Mary’s College in New York, who for 12 years was the headmistress of Gateways School in Leeds, Great Britain. Davidson brings to UWC Dilijan nearly 40 years of experience working and inspecting schools and colleges in the UK and at an international level.
UWC Dilijan School is the first international boarding school in Eastern Europe and CIS. The school opened in September 2014 in the Armenian town of Dilijan and currently has 188 students enrolled from 61 countries including: Armenia, Russia and other countries of CIS, Europe and Asia, Middle East and Africa, North and South Americas, as well as from Australia.
The educational project was initiated and masterminded by businessman and philanthropist Ruben Vardanyan and his wife Veronika Zonabend. The school was built with generous donations from over 200 benefactors. Its admissions policy aims to make enrollment available to anyone, regardless of socio-economic background, on the basis of demonstrated need.
The UWC Dilijan is situated at the junction of Asia and Europe, halfway between Yerevan and Tbilisi, the capitals of Armenia and Georgia. It covers over 88 acres of land, partially located within Dilijan National Park.
The UWC Dilijan academic program – the IB Diploma – is recognized by universities worldwide. The school is a full member of UWC International and an International Baccalaureate World School (Diploma). Program Curriculum are taught in English, and a wide range of other languages (initially French, German, Russian, Spanish). The school also offers the students a wide range of programs to engage with the local Dilijan community and environment. For more information visit: http://uwcdilijan.org/