I’ve now attended 5 graduation ceremonies for over 1000 high school seniors. The smallest was 2 and the largest was 474. Our goal is that every teen graduates with the life competencies they need for success as citizens, family and community members, and members of the workforce.
Most will go on to attend college. Some are entering the military. A few have the luxury to take gap years. Others are going directly to work or already have their own entrepreneurial business started. (Yes — we do have teens who have built out the beginnings of small businesses and understand that it takes a lot of dedicated hustle and commitment to getting a business off the ground.)
I also applaud all of our just graduated teens for their dedicated service to our community. They have volunteered with younger children in elementary schools. They’ve worked with the elderly in care facilities. They’ve walked SPCA dogs. They’ve assisted local nonprofits with a variety of projects that make a difference in the lives of our homeless community, those caught in a cycle of domestic violence, those living in poverty, those who have serious health issues, and so much more.
This group of young people who are mostly already 18 and adults by the measure of our legal code already are politically active and they engaged in voting in this last presidential election. They also worked in campaigns and debated political platforms in their classes, hallways, and in the cafeteria.
Our graduates have taken their last state test, played their last game on a high school team, and performed their last school band concert or play. Their high school story has been written, revised, edited, and published for their parents, teachers, and even the world to see via graduation livestream.
As I watched student after student poised to walk across the stage, they reminded me of planes queued to take off on the runway or parachuters ready to leap from the door of a plane. Some looked bold and ready. Others looked a bit timid to take that step. Some grinned and entertained the audience with a flourish of hands and feet. Others waited solemn and serious as if life were passing before their eyes.
Graduation Class and Principal Selfie
All were beautiful — beautiful in their youth- and full of that same spark of passion that also took us older adults forward into life, relationships, careers, and both failures and successes. We are connected to our graduates with a common thread that pulls us together regardless of age. That thread is a sense of hope that life will be good to us and to those we love.
So, when it comes down to it, it’s really love that binds us all together as humans. Love brings empathy and a belief that we are important to others, not just ourselves. Love brings with it a passion for not just what we accomplish but who is in our corner as we journey forward into life. Love creates bonds in our pursuit of life’s interests and life’s questions.
Some of those who walked our stages will remain BFF — forever, anchored by the social media which makes staying together far easier today than when we in older generations flew from our graduation stages of the past.
Our graduates still have much to learn but they are a wonderful addition to our adult communities. They also are our teachers— reminding us who have been there that we can still leverage our own hopes and dreams, our own love for others, and our own value for that which is possible.
The class of 2017 represents all of us and all the potential of humanity. We are fortunate to have this generation moving us all forward.