by Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
District Superintendent, Questar III BOCES

To the graduating class of 2024, please take a moment to pause and reflect as a plethora of possibilities await you. This journey you are about to embark on requires tenacity and the willingness to work with others you may not always agree with. While you may want to conquer the world from the outset of your new journey, remain poised and purposeful, and be patient. You cannot do it alone – and you will not do it all at once. Sometimes we need to go slowly to go fast, taking the long way to reach the most beautiful destinations.

Let me share some additional insights from someone with the benefit of many years of experience, triumph, and trial and error alike:

  • Be positive. Social media and the news can amplify negativity in a way that can impact your mental health and distort your view of the world.
  • Cultivate a growth mindset. Anything is possible through hard work and patience. See challenges as opportunities to learn and grow – and let your enthusiasm inspire others.
  • Stay grounded. Never lose sight of who you are and what you value. Far too many people let the expectations of others chart their course. Pursue your own passions and aspirations. Remember, this is your journey, not someone else’s, but be mindful of the myth of overnight success. Successful individuals worked hard behind the scenes for many years before they achieved success. Don’t be discouraged if success is not instant.
  • Give back. Our impact in life should not be measured by wealth or material goods, but rather by the impact we have on others. Aspire to be more like an influential adult in your life than a famous person or athlete you might not really know. Volunteer your skills and time, advocate for what is right, and give back to others, especially when it’s needed most.
  • Think. Continue to develop and use your critical thinking skills. Analyze information – especially content on the internet or social media – carefully. Ask questions, debate respectfully, and seek truth and justice. While there is freedom of speech, the words we choose matter. The world needs informed citizens, engaged in constructive dialogue, seeking solutions together, and people who speak the truth rather than just what others might want to hear.
  • Achieve. Remember, your future is not predetermined; it is a canvas awaiting your brushstrokes and artistry. This is not to say life will always be easy (because it will not), but it can be incredibly rewarding when you set and achieve your goals. Embrace the unknown with a healthy dose of optimism because so much of what is ahead is just that – unknown – but believe in your ability to make a difference, one day at a time.

While it is important to plan, please enjoy the journey along the way. Have fun, establish meaningful relationships, share laughter and tears, and celebrate accomplishments. You might be graduating, but that does not mean this is the end of learning. On the contrary, this is a new beginning. You will continue to learn throughout your life whether intended or not, through formal and informal means in different settings.

I encourage you to find something else that drives you and gets you out of bed besides what you choose as your next step in life’s journey; may it be post-secondary education, the armed forces, or work. Look for ways to step outside your comfort zone and diversify your network. Diversity is larger than just race or background; it is also about the diversity of experience, ideas, and thoughts. We can learn a lot from each other, including the many things we have in common.

As journalist and writer Nora Ephron said, “Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead.” On behalf of your teachers, administrators, and board members, we look forward to seeing you leave an enduring mark as you work to make the world a better place for generations to come. Congratulations and best wishes to the class of 2024!

This column was published in the Register Star and The Daily Mail newspapers

Share This