The music began, and 100-odd adults processed down the aisle, combining Fairfax County’s National External Diploma (life experience can count, much of the studies are completed at home) , General Educational Development (attend classes and pass the GED exam) and Adult High School (pass the FCPS curricula) programs. The auditorium stood and applauded. My girl wasn’t marching., though. Nope, she was already on stage as a keynote speaker.
The ceremony proceeded with a thoughtful speech by the administrator followed by the three keynote speakers. The auditorium was far from silent. Babies were crying, children chatting, and there was lively social interaction from the under-five set. There were bouquets of balloons bobbing but securely tethered and bouquets of flowers dotting the auditorium. What there wasn’t was beach balls being tossed about. There was no out-of-turn whooping it up, no booing, no disruptions of any kind. No one was obnoxious. Everyone was proud. Every speech was listened to with respect, and applauded soundly.
As each of the graduates was announced, the administrator added the graduate's note of thanks: to grandparents who’d brought them to this country, to their children for encouragement, to spouses for support, to parents, to teachers, to counselors. As each graduate crossed the stage to receive a diploma, the audience applauded, from first to last. My hands were sore by the end, but no one crossed that stag without recognition of hard work, long hours and sacrifices.
This is what a high school graduation should be: a happy occasion of celebration and pride. During so many graduations where I live, the students mock the process. Their entitlement not only devalues their own accomplishments but often those for whom the process was difficult either scholastically, financially or emotionally. Not everyone's teen years are their best years. That’s what made this occasion so impressive. These people -- mostly young adults, but some not so young -- knew the value of what they achieved. They had lived without what our society has come to consider the minimum standard. They had realized that they were held back in their ability to earn a living, in their stature before others, from doing what they wanted in life, held back in their self-worth. But guess what? They did it! They did it, and I felt proud of every one of them.
And for those of you that would still minimize their achievement? I learned something interesting that night; I learned that 40% of high school graduates can’t pass the GED test. I suggest you examine your feelings of superiority.
We have a steep slope running from our front yard to the street. When we first moved in, it was made up of weeds and erosion. I planted 12 flats of ivy and two of vinca. I weeded so much that I dreamed of crab grass. That ivy is glossy green all year. Yes, there were setbacks, and sometimes we have a few bare spots, However, the ivy dug in. It spread. It thrived.
Congratulations to you, my girl! Nothing can stop you.