Lessons learned from graduation

(ROCKWALL/HEATH, TX – June 12, 2015) Graduation is the only time of year, for many people, that can contain both terrifying and exhilarating beginnings and ends at the same time. For students, it’s the end of exhausting hard work and the beginning of daunting future opportunity. For parents, faculty and administrators, it’s the end of having the duty of facilitating success and the beginning of having the pleasure of witnessing it.

I attended my first graduation as a spectator instead of a participant for the first time this year. Although I graduated two years ago, I still found it easy to commiserate and celebrate along with the 500 or so soon-to-be graduates as they sat in their stiff, hard chairs in their (surprisingly comfortable) graduation gowns. Each student was awaiting, with nervous anxiety, the opportunity to partake in the walk that would become the transitional moment in their young lives so far.

Pomp and Circumstance played. Students marched. Parents cried. Faculty beamed. And suddenly each student held in his or her hand a paper that represented 12 long school years of blood, sweat and tears. Caps were thrown and the ceremony was complete.

Simple but poignant, the ceremony is as meaningful as it is brief. As always, hindsight is 20/20 and I learned things as a spectator that I could never understand as a participant. Here are lessons learned from graduation, from someone who has been both a graduate and a spectator:

Never underestimate the impact you can have on people. Every kind word spoken by an administrator, every encouraging smile given by a teacher and every inspiring act performed by a peer will leave an impact on someone in the school, and there’s no telling where the ripple effect will stop. Of course the opposite is also true. Every harsh word, every condescending glance and every mean-spirited action will have its own effect. It’s up to each individual what impact to leave, for every graduation speech and future action will hold the evidence of such impact, whether positive or negative.

Don’t sell short anyone’s ability to change the world. From graduation onward, each student is diverging to follow his or her own unique path. No one, not even the person on it, knows where each path will lead. But as each student accepted his or her diploma, it became clear that every single one of them held the capacity to make an impact on the world in his or her own way.

On that note, success comes in all shapes and sizes. Since every student is embarking on a diverging path, no two students will have the same story for their future, and no two students will have the same benchmark for success. Different students will have different influences on their worlds, but although the roads to success are as varied as they are long, the feeling of achieving success will be just as sweet regardless of it is achieved.

Finally, hope for the future is a powerful force. It’s an electric force: its euphoric current could be felt rippling through the arena as 500 students, along with their closest friends and family, celebrated their achievement. Everyone in attendance felt it inspire and exhilarate in equal turns. It is the only force on earth that can inspire people to do better than they think they can, in the hopes that one day the world will be a better place because of it.

I leave with these words: if our future is in the hands of the students that have such great hope for their future, then I have high hopes as well.

By Abbie Killian (Blue Ribbon News reporter and rising junior at the University of Missouri, working towards a Bachelor in journalism with an emphasis in Strategic Communication and Public Relations.

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PHOTOS from Rockwall-Heath’s graduation

PHOTOS from Rockwall’s graduation