Last night I attended the graduation ceremony of the high school where my husband works. The students there are reputed to have a tough reputation, a statement with which I think they would agree. Yet there they were. They’d made it, and their family and friends were there to celebrate the achievement.
The commencement address was given by Wally Ibera, a man who has dedicated himself to working with youth for life transformation. Ibera, himself, had a tough education. He confessed it took him seven years to graduate from high school. Yet in the end he had been able to attend a highly rated University and now helps young people all over our region.
Ibera congratulated the students on their achievement, acknowledging that many of them had faced far greater hurdles than their compatriots at other local schools—poverty, single parent homes, drug or alcohol use on their own part or by the people who were supposed to be their caretakers and role models, and becoming single parents themselves. In conclusion, he told the graduates because they have achieved this hard-won milestone in their lives, “There is nothing you can’t do.”
What an empowering message. You could feel in the air the agreement and the hopes of the teacher’s who had helped them reach this day and the family and friends who cheered them on.
As each student was called to receive his or her diploma, the announcer also read the student’s plans for the future. One student planned to be a police officer, another intended to join the air force so he could become an airplane mechanic, another wanted to be a parole officer—which got a laugh out of the audience. One girl got a rousing cheer because she wants to be a delivery nurse in a hospital. There were students going on to community college, cooking schools, and beauty schools, and many who intended to earn four-year degrees in order to become youth counselors, certified translators, and archeologists. Several shared their hopes to be the best moms and dads they could be.
Hearing all their dreams made me consider what an amazing thing an education is. As a person with a master’s degree, I sometimes forget how my learning has opened so many doors in my own life. It helped me to become an author, a teacher, and now a blogger. It helps me to be a responsible citizen and to help others. It facilitates my pleasure in reading, art, crafting, and culture. It allows me to continue to ever broaden my knowledge base without ever setting foot in a school again because I have learned how to learn. I have learned how to hunt down and use information. And I think, judging by the aspirations of these students, they have learned to learn as well.
To these students, I join Ibera in saying, “There’s nothing you can’t do!” I pray these former high school students will take off on their fledgling wings and sail to great heights, heights they probably could not have imagined for themselves when they were children, heights once only dreamed of by their teachers, family, and friends. May these young people take their crisp new diplomas and soar.