For some reason I was surprised when graduation announcements started showing up in our mailbox. As usual, I’ve lost track of time, but the area’s high schools – Enumclaw, Bonney Lake, Sumner, White River and the White River Alternative Programs and Choice – are preparing to send hundreds of graduates out into the big, big world.
Not only have I been through my own ceremonies, but I’ve covered enough tassel-turning events to know there will be tears, and they will be tears of sadness. I think they should be tears of joy. Life is ready to begin. It’s called commencement for a reason.
It’s a fresh start; a clean slate; a new day. A time to venture out and embrace the life you were meant to live.
OK, I did watch part of the Oprah finale and we may be striking the same chord.
It’s funny, I was at White River High School covering the Mary Meisenbach Excellence in Education Award presentation last week and the winner was a familiar face – teacher Karen Fugate.
Karen and I graduated from Enumclaw High School together. What struck me as funny is neither of us could remember where our graduation ceremony took place. After some thought, I think we, and a few more than 300 of our classmates, received our diplomas on the campus in Chuck Smith Gymnasium.
We also attended Central Washington University at the same time and I don’t know about Karen, but I don’t remember commencement exercises there at all. Although I do have pictures of myself in a black gown and mortarboard standing with my parents in front of the pavilion to prove it happened.
There were two things I took out of my conversation with Karen; the first is high school is a small part of life and the second, it can have great impact on your future.
I pulled out our yearbook and flipped through it for fun and found that my future plans were, “To go to CWU, become a reporter or TV newsperson and own my own scandal sheet in Australia.”
For the most part that’s true and there’s still time to finish the dream.
Karen’s plans were to attend college, help people and go in the direction she was meant to go. When she accepted her award for Excellence in Education, she said teaching was her passion and she was thankful and blessed. The students who nominated her and the Meisenbachs also believe she made the right choice.
Interestingly. there were quite of few ‘83 grads who knew what they wanted to do and where they were headed and didn’t veer far off course. I’m sure a few of us hit some speed bumps along the way, but just headed in a different direction.
I’m not big on advice, but if I had to send graduates off with a few parting words, it would be this:
• Don’t let the boogers get you down. It’s a familiar phrase at the Sexton house and sometimes it’s easier to say than to follow.
• When the boogers do get you down, dance; or take a few minutes to soak up the sun; or phone a friend; or put the top down on the convertible, crank up the radio and head east.
• Respect your parents. I’m not saying this because I am a parent, although I do like to remind my kids. Parents, and elders in general, have experiences that you can learn from and they do love and care about you. We rolled our eyes at our parents too, but we see things differently now and so will you.
• Be true to yourself and you’re creative side. Many of the most successful graduates were not valedictorians. The straight-A students do OK, but it’s my experience they’re not the type to strike out and take risks. I remind my students in religious education class to trust in the lord. Often I have to heed my own advice. Believe in yourself and listen to your inner voice.
• When all is said and done, your success will hopefully not be measured by how much money you made, but how your life impacted, influenced and affected others.