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A Lasting Impact

I love graduation season. It's a time to celebrate hard work and academic achievement. For many students in both my hometown and where I work, many students who are graduating are the first in their families to graduate from high school.

As teachers, sometimes we forget that. I've been guilty of assuming before that because we're past Y2K that everyone has a high school diploma. I remember my own realization when I found out my mom's mom hadn't graduated high school. Encouraged by a doctor to drop out (I remember her vaguely mentioning something about an enlarged heart), she was told that she wouldn't live to be 18. Naturally, she carpe diem-ed. (Well, there wasn't much living it up. She married and had five kids. She also lived to her late 70s.)

So as I sat on the dais at my hometown's graduation ceremony, I reminded myself to remain calm about the air horns, the catcalls, the shouting. High school graduation might not seem like a big deal to me (everyone in my generation in my family has completed high school), for others this really is a major milestone. The excitement is real and genuine. Sure, I could get upset at the noise. And for many years, I did. But is it really worth getting that upset over unfettered enthusiasm for a student's success? Nope. There wasn't swearing or destruction, just joy and an occasional nickname.

I was also fortunate enough to shake hands with a few graduating seniors as I handed them their diploma cases. It's been over ten years since I first met some of them at my part-time job with the Belleville Boys & Girls Club. And just when I thought that some of them had forgotten who I am, one of them said very proudly, "Wow, Kevin. You sure got old!"

Congratulations, Class of 2017!

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