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The students of Altos de Chavón School of Design gathered at the front of the amphitheater, this years venue, on a warm, sunny day on Saturday, May 19th to celebrate their 34th graduation. Even though it was cloudy and with possibilities of rain, the graduates and their families were blessed with a beautiful evening where they were once officially proclaimed Chavoneros after two years of hard work. This year, a total of 93 students graduated; 65 students from Santo Domingo and 28 from Fine Arts in Altos de Chavón. All who come to know Altos de Chavón fall in love with its majesty. Residents and visitors alike are in awe of the handcrafted gem that is our artisan village, and sitting among its cobbles laid by hand is a school so special, so unique, that it transforms the lives of all who are a part of it. The Altos de Chavón School of Design which was founded in 1983 goes beyond providing graduates with technical degrees and instills inside them a fervor for the creation and an innovative spirit that lasts a lifetime.  Around 6:30 p.m., the ceremony began with the students marching to what has become the traditional opening song, “Libertad” sung by Nana Mouskouri, each student wore a different color depending on their course specialism; red for fashion design, yellow for visual communication and dark blue for the fine arts students and walked down one of the three center stairs at the amphitheater to finally settle at the center stage where they were met by the schools administration and faculty members who have witnessed their evolution during these past two years. Sanil Mercedes, the master of ceremonies, who is also assistant Rector and Coordinator of Student Services, welcomed the students, faculty, families, and guests to the 34th graduation and introduced special guests: Ian Victor, Dominican designer and graphic communicator, who graduated from the school back in 1999 and is currently the academic director of the Visual Communications faculty in Santo Domingo; Lance Wyman, an American graphic designer. He is known for such work as the logo of the 1968 Summer Olympic Games and his map of the Washington Metro system; and José Marmol, renown philosophy teacher and executive vice president of the Banco Popular who during his speech invited the graduates to “be the generation committed to the responsibility of making a change in all Dominicans.”  Rector Stephen D. Kaplan gave the introductory graduation speech:
“Chavón is a unique place in the world of education. It is a school with almost two score years of enabling talented students to reach their potential: helping them to find employment, or recognition, in the intertwined worlds of art and design – and now filmmaking.  But whether the images they produce move or are immobile, Chavón graduates are prepared to meet the challange of solving both intellectual and pressing, real-world problems. Our two campuses transform raw ability, spirited interest, daring curiosity, and pure drive into honed skills and focus intentions.  The Chavón approach to design and art as problem-solving tools is holistic, interdisciplinary. We are dedicated to working across the frontiers that often pigeonhole the designer. A painting, garment, movie, poster, photograph, illustration, advertisement, or even a business plan or campaign can convey an urgent message. Chavón students are trained in a classical, traditional curriculum, taught technique and encouraged to use their abilities to make essential contemporary designer and artist statements. Societal issues, ecological concerns, and the act of doing good are all woven into our curriculum. We also believe that an excellent work ethic is the ticket to realizing the artist’s vision.  At Chavón, artists and designers have access to the public at large, and we believe that they have the responsibility to inform the public via skills they acquire here. review the work of this year’s graduates in the senior shows at the two campuses and you will discover art and design of great competence, art without artificial borders.”
The students were surrounded by loved ones who witnessed this important milestone in their lives, as one by one each made their way across the stage, accepting their technical degrees from Stephen Kaplan and Vice-Rector Adolfo Lucero. The number of Altos de Chavón School of Design graduates has grown steadily over the last few years with 24 students graduating in the field of Fashion Design, 41 in Communication Design, and 28 in Fine Arts. An impressive number of these students earned honors, and notably, Pedro Rogelio Troncoso from La Romana, who also was awarded this year’s full scholarship Parsons the New school of design, graduated Summa Cum Laude and was the valedictorian. For the students, the past two years have been grueling, exciting, frustrating, information filled, skill building, celebratory, tense, joyous, and rewarding. Over these years they’ve learned how to live on their own, how to work in teams and independently, how to push their abilities to the breaking point and how to reach much farther than their arm’s length. After the ceremony which concluded with the song, “Rumba Azul” by Caetano Veloso, the proud students made their way, diploma in hand, with their guests to the main Gallery where they all happily posed for pictures and were congratulated by all in attendance. They enjoyed a refreshing cocktail reception and final exhibition of the work by the Fine Arts students.  Congratulations Chavoneros!! We look forward to following your careers and hearing your success stories as you go out into the world. Go forth and conquer! The following photos were taken by Dariana Soriano on Saturday, May 19th at the 34th graduation of the Altos de Chavón School of Design Class of 2018: