Dear High School Graduate,
I’m proud of you. I’m not applauding you for your awards, your shiny GPA, those mounting scholarship dollars or a coveted spot at the top of your class. Are those things important?
Yes. But I want you to know I am proud of you — no matter where you fall on the academic spectrum — for graduating.
That diploma with your name written so wonderfully across it is a victory. In Missouri, the graduation rate is 86 percent; in Kansas, it’s 85 percent. You’re among those graduates. And it’s a big deal.
Sometimes, with all of the pressure put on students to get as close to academic perfection as possible, we lose sight of the triumph that is simply graduating.
I recently sat on a scholarship committee where some applications included pages upon pages of after-school activities and awards and cover letters with very little soul. And then, at a high school graduation, I watched from the bleachers as an elite few who won the most honors took the spotlight for most of the ceremony.
It’s all impressive, but it isn’t the alpha and omega of who a person is and will be.
A stellar grade-point average and accolades will help you, but they do not make you better than or less than the person next to you. Yes, I was an honor roll kind of girl. I earned a partial scholarship. But I was no 4.0 whiz kid. And I’m ashamed to admit I quit almost every extracurricular activity I ever took part in. Because life happened.
I worked the late shift the night before my SAT and was too tired to give it my all. I was fighting with insecurities and family dynamics. So I did the best I could. And then I kept trying.
Potential is a funny thing. All it takes is a willingness to push yourself — even when it hurts — and you can do amazing things. Steve Jobs was a B and C kind of student, y’all. But he was brilliant and a risk-taker and a hard worker.
I think you are, too. It takes a lot to make it across that stage on graduation day.
You could have dropped out. You could have let bullies, illness and bad days get the best of you. We all have struggles. Maybe you moved in the middle of the school year, suffered the loss of a loved one or faced financial hardships. But your problems did not become you. You rose above. You hung on. You kept trying and found a way to get the work done, to make it to the high school finish line.
That takes tenacity, honey. High school is usually the first place your perseverance is tested. You passed.
And now, it’s your time. You can write the journey ahead. Maybe you aren’t taking the direct path. Maybe you have to work, go to a community college or take some time to regroup.
This alternative plan might reroute you, but it will not stop you. There are a lot of ways to achieve your dream.
You are going to try many things. And you will fail at a few of them. That’s all right. You learn from the fall; you pick yourself up and try again. And again. Oh, and again. Life is a series of successes and failures, for everyone — even if you don’t see it on the highlight reel that is Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
Congratulations, graduates. Your dreams are ringing your phone. The conversations won’t always be easy. But it’s time. Answer your calling.