Graduation as a Sacred Ceremony

Graduation as a Sacred Ceremony

A rite of passage is an important, sacred ceremony that highlights a transitional period in a person’s life- often marking the departure from one group in order to enter another. Graduation is one of those rites of passage and is also known as commencement, convocation or invocation.

At Rainbow, it takes on all of these forms but at its core is an invocation- this sacred ceremony serves as an invitation of the spirit, a reverence for deep connection, reflection and transformation. Our RCS graduation is one of many shared celebrations, ceremonies and rites of passage that empower students to turn both inward and outward in order to realize that they are part of an integral community as well as something greater than themselves.

As the ceremony opened, we were welcomed by the Executive Director, Renee Owen. She took a moment to acknowledge some of the RCS commencement traditions that make the ceremony sacred. She first explained that every graduating child speaks at commencement- that each child has an opportunity to share with the community a memory that they want to hold in their hearts as they move through this important transition. Their voices are heard, their memories are honored and their growth and transformation are celebrated by the entire community.

Renee went on to explain another important ritual of this rite of passage- centering. As all things at Rainbow begin with centering- from school days, to meetings, to shared celebrations- so does graduation. Renee noted that the purpose of centering is to help each of us bring a mindful awareness to the present moment. She acknowledged the profound importance of the evening’s events and reminded us that…”there will never be another moment like it ever again.”

Graduation centerings are led by the graduates. Last week at preschool graduation, four eager preschoolers lead the whole community in acts of mindful listening, deep breathing, and a blessing of compassion. Last night, seven confident 8th graders lead centering. It began with the song of the singing bowl to gather everyone’s attention. Jackson, one of our graduates who has been here since first grade, stepped up to the microphone and invited each member of the community to turn to their neighbors to greet one another. Gaby, another graduate, then followed with an invitation to close eyes and reflect on the greeting. The reflection was prompted by these questions-
“Did they look happy?”
“What color were their eyes?”
“How long was their hair?”
“What was their name?”

Lena, then approached the microphone and followed with this quote…”Life is a dance, mindfulness is witnessing that dance.” Jackson furthered explained that, “No one in life will guide you to notice the space you are in, so it is up to you to be mindful of your space and body. Now… reintroduce yourself in a centered space, pay close attention to the entire picture, and ask mindful questions.” Another student reflected, “How did that greeting make you feel this time? What more did you noticed?” Finally Harmony, another student closed the centering by leading the group in a deep, communal breath.

RCS closes this rite of passage each year with a song that has held space in this community- as a gift of appreciation- for decades. Last night, this song was meant as an enduring reminder for all the graduates that they are held, supported and deeply loved by their RCS community. Below are the simple but profound lyrics.

Dear Ones we love you, Dear Ones you helped us to grow,
There’s a circle of light around you, there’s a circle of light in your heart.
There’s a circle of love around you, there’s a circle of love in your heart.

Rainbow’s students at the Odyssey State Tournament

Rainbow’s students at the Odyssey State Tournament

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Last Saturday 7 remarkable Rainbow students competed at the Odyssey of the Mind state Competition at the Appalachian State College up in Boone. Odyssey of the mind is a creativity competition, designed to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, collaborative creativity and independence… Perfect for Rainbow students.

Our kids (listed at the bottom of this article) did the school proud on the day and carried themselves with maturity, responsibility and respect.

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Anyone who worked with them throughout the process commented on how astoundingly effortless their collaboration was as a team. Some of the team had been together since Kindergarten, while some had only recently joined the school, yet they all seemed like family… A true testament to the cohesive and welcoming community we have here at Rainbow.

They ended up as the highest placed team from the entire Western Region in their problem category and division. Although they didn’t place for the world competition they all came out as winners in our eyes, having represented the school while making stronger bonds and lasting memories along the way.

Please congratulate them if you see them around campus!

6th Grade students Gaby McCassim, Harmony Redford, Isabel Raustol, Willow Eshan, Lena Usner, Jonah McCloud and Sunshine Pugh from 7th Grade.

kids happy before the competition

Rainbow’s going to the Odyssey state tournament this weekend!

Rainbow’s going to the Odyssey state tournament this weekend!

Odyssey state tournament in Boone this weekend
Imagine, if you will, a creative competition that allows students to express themselves artistically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. These expressions are in alignment with Rainbow’s seven domains of child development. Now, imagine the pressure of performing for judges and parents and against other students.

This weekend our own team of sixth graders, including Isabel R, Harmony R, Lena U, Gaby M, Jonah M, and Willow E, will be heading off to the Odyssey State Tournament in Boone, NC, this weekend to compete on Saturday morning!.

We send them the best energy and courage to accomplish their goals!
Rainbow Community School Student Poetry Published in the Mountain Xpress.

Rainbow Community School Student Poetry Published in the Mountain Xpress.

It’s always a pleasure to see our students passionate for personal activities. Caleb Mcntosh​’s​ (sixth grade) and Lena Usher​’s​ (sixth grade) poetry was published in the Mountain Xpress newspaper in March. Rainbow Community School is very proud of you​!​ Below are the poems that were published by the Mountain Xpress​.​


I used to Be

I used to be squeaky, whiny, loud kid,

Now I am not,

I imagined rivers flowing, waves rolling,

I had a thick black hair, blue eyes,

I was a monkey,

Now I am not,

Now I have soft brown hair with bluish green eyes,

I used to be a little kid, now I am not.

-caleb Mcintosh, sixth grade-



Ode to Dance

Dance is like,

A spark, beginning,

Like small thing,

Creeping and growing,

Until you burst. You

Move and create,

And inspire,

Dragging me in,

And pushing me out,

I love the way you lift me

To the hidden world,

inside my heart.

Then you stop,

But with the promise of tomorrow.

-Lena Usner, sixth grade-



Beyond Rainbow Alumni Panel

Here at Rainbow Community School, it is always a pleasure to know about what is happening with our alumni.This time, Rainbow had the honor of having Dunken, Adriana, Geronimo, Mackenzie, Michael, and Zoe share their thoughts and experiences about how the Rainbow experience has impacted their lives during the panel night “Beyond Rainbow.”

Alumni Night

Alumni Night

The panel was a great source for parents to hear from alumni about the student experience and how the Rainbow experience helps shape students’ relationships with the world. This panel enriched our community, increased others’ knowledge of what Rainbow is about, and allowed students to share how they feel about being a part of this community.

Thanks again to Dunken, Adriana, Geronimo, Mackenzie, Michael, and Zoe for being so open and sharing your dreams, experiences, and aspirations. Rainbow Community school is so proud of you!
Sallie, Lauren and Louisa Ford

Sallie, Lauren and Louisa Ford

You know our music teacher, Sue Ford, right?

But did you know that all three of her daughters attended Rainbow at one time? Or that they’re making names for themselves in big ways?

Sallie Ford

Sallie Ford, April, 2014Sue’s daughter Sallie, all of 27, is not only “googleable” but, she’s even in Wikipedia!

Her musical talents are getting noticed in New York and beyond.

She’s rocking out with her all-female band. With her distinctive style, she marches out with a raw-soul sound in her music. She lives in Portland when she’s not touring.

Have a listen to this:

Lauren Ford

Sue’s daughter, Lauren Ford, is living in New York City and loves it!sue ford

She went there to pursue her dream of acting and was trained at Emerson College in Boston. She graduated in 2005 with honors and won the Carol Burnett award – the highest award offered to any student graduating in performing arts.

She’d already made waves before that: while still living in Asheville, she won the “Best Actor” award from ACT when she was just 13 for her portrayal of Anne Frank.

She moved to NYC in 2007 and worked off broadway, in touring companies and in regional theater.

As you can imagine, it’s really tough to make it in New York and she keeps herself very busy working multiple jobs including coat check girl with a fancy Manhattan restaurant, leading sake and whisky tastings, babysitting, working with flowers and plants and working for a catering company.

Those are her day jobs while her dream becomes reality.

Lauren blogs about her experiences at

Louisa Ford

louisa fordLouisa Ford, 24, moved to Portland two years ago after graduating from Appalachian State University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and a concentration in Sustainable Development.

She is living in Portland trying different jobs including waitressing, hostessing, working in a children’s museum, and teaching tap dance lessons.

She’s a musician too and she tap dances, plays guitar and sings all at the same time.

All three girls are singers and songwriters – hmm…we wonder where they got that from?

Sue Ford is extremely proud of her daughters. Every day she smiles at how proud they make her.

Something they all have in common is Rainbow.

And wouldn’t you know, Sue’s husband, Hobey Ford is coming to Rainbow for a puppeteer performance in the auditorium in February!