by Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
District Superintendent

For this month’s column, I want to provide a message to the class of 2022, as they prepare to graduate and pivot to life after high school. This is a significant milestone in your lives, and we congratulate you on this accomplishment.

Graduation is truly a time to celebrate – and to look back and look ahead. It is also a time to acknowledge how much your lives have changed, both from your schooling and development to how you navigated the disruptions of the past two plus years. It is hard to believe that more than half of your high school career has taken place during a global pandemic.

As you prepare to leave your high school and prepare for the next phase of your life’s journey, I ask you not to dwell on the last two plus years, but rather to reflect on your entire school experience and what lies ahead. Moreover, think about how your pre-k through 12 journey prepared you to deal with life’s unknowns and real-world problems.

Consider how much you have grown since first stepping onto your high school campus in September 2018. At that time, your school may have seemed imposing but now you leave it wiser, more confident, knowledgeable, and curious about learning.

You leave high school a different person than the one who entered just four years ago in so many ways, from what you see and hear to what you think and feel. I know that growing up was not always easy, and I encourage you to continue to seek a trusted friend when you need someone to listen to you.

As you look ahead to the future, I ask you to keep learning and to look for ways to step outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Seek opportunities to collaborate, create and to give back to the communities that have given you so much.

Some of you will be leaving your hometowns in the coming weeks and months, as you enter college, trade school, the workplace or military service. With this can come anxiety and worry about the unknowns, but you can and will manage. You will meet new people, try new things, and continue to grow.

And for those who will remain locally, we look forward to your continued growth. You will enrich our communities in new ways as you expand your networks, contribute to the local community and economies, and go to school or work.

You leave high school with 17 or 18 years of life experiences to draw from, but in many ways, life is just beginning for you. Where you will go and where life will take you is up to you, so dream big. Before you get too far along though, I ask you to recognize and thank those who helped you reached this important milestone.

Graduation is the culmination of many hours of hard work and the support of so many, including your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, and others. I hope you will take the time to reflect on those who helped and encouraged you along the way, from when you first started school to those who more recently impacted your lives.

We are so proud of you and your classmates and everything you have accomplished. Please continue to use your time, talents, experiences, and knowledge to make the world a better place for everyone, including those younger siblings and neighbors who will soon follow in your footsteps. After all, you are an example to them and someone they look up to and aspire to be.

As Nora Ephron said, “your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead.” We look forward to celebrating with you and cannot wait to see everything else you will accomplish in your lives. Congratulations and best wishes to the class of 2022!

This column appeared in the Register Star and The Daily Mail newspapers.

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