If you haven’t attended a high school graduation recently, I highly recommend it.
Graduations are uplifting. They remind you that, despite our collective challenges, there is an entire generation of young people who are ready to work hard, solve problems, and make a difference.
Graduations represent the triumph of knowledge, curiosity, and the American spirit of determination.
Last week, I attended the graduation of the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science (CCSMS). Students, teachers, and staff from this school have enthusiastically participated in National School Choice Week for years to celebrate their school’s success and, more broadly, the importance of opportunity in education.
After I was invited to deliver the school’s commencement address, I racked my brain to think of something motivational and inspiring to say to the graduates. I decided to focus on the importance of kindness and how it can be a healthy antidote to the negativity in our world.
But graduation speakers, like me, are simply oratorical decorations.
The real inspiration at these ceremonies comes from the students who are celebrating their achievements and eager to take on the next phase of their lives. The student speakers at the event talked about the trepidation they felt on their first days of school, years ago, but how they came to view CCSMS as a second home. They shared how they saw their teachers and the school’s administrators as an extension of their families.
Those teachers and administrators, with their visible pride in the accomplishments of these graduates, were deeply inspiring, too. In addition to imparting wisdom and knowledge and inspiration, teachers and school staff invest a great deal of their own emotional energy in each of their students – and at graduation, you can’t miss it.
The parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, and aunts of the graduates inspired me. They cheered these students on graduation day, just as they cheered these young people through the first 18 years of their lives. We should all join them in cheering, because there is a lot to cheer about.
CCSMS has a 100 percent high school graduation rate, and 90 percent of students go to college. It is a public charter school, which means it is entirely free for any student to attend, and accepts any student who wants to attend, provided there is space. The school wouldn’t exist if teachers hadn’t chosen to start it and chosen to work there, and it wouldn’t exist if students –with guidance from their parents — hadn’t chosen to attend the school.
The power of all of these choices, too – all culminating in a fantastic day of achievement – is deeply inspiring.
This spring, more than 3.3 million students will graduate from high school in America. That means that there are 3.3 million reasons for all Americans to be inspired and to celebrate.
The class of 2018 deserves our best wishes and our gratitude for their hard work. They deserve the chance to continue their success and achieve their own American dreams. Their teachers, school leaders, parents, and families also deserve our gratitude.
For students who haven’t yet graduated, or children who have yet to enter school, these students deserve our determination – our determination to create an environment where all children have the opportunity to succeed and graduate from schools that are right for them.
There are no students in America whose futures are not worth fighting for. Every child has potential. The more students we can inspire and motivate to work hard, solve problems, and make a difference in this world, the better we will be as a country.
Read more News and Notes from NSCW president Andrew Campanella here.