Every year, during the months of May and June, families around the country gather together to joyously participate in graduation ceremonies. As hundreds of thousands of young adults don traditional caps and gowns to receive their high school diplomas, families and friends are present to witness all the pomp and circumstance of the commencement exercises and revel in the excitement of watching graduates cross the stage and receive their diplomas. Although some see graduation as an end in itself, the ceremony is really just a bookmark in the life story of each graduate. This tradition is just a fleeting moment, a way to mark one special page that indicates that the graduates have reached an important milestone in their personal life stories. However, there are many more chapters still to be written as graduates pursue their dreams.
For each graduate, commencement signifies the achievement of a level of personal accomplishment, formal recognition of the completion of requirements, numerous challenges and demands of academia. For most, this bookmark carries with it a multitude of memories of times shared with friends, teammates, classmates, coaches and teachers. Some of these special relationships are about to change forever as each graduate finds a way to write the next chapter in his or her life story. Most graduates are caught up in the joy of the moment as they come to the end of their high school years. Their eyes are focused on the future. What things are yet to be written in future chapters? The potential of those unwritten chapters seems both exciting and scary, filled with unlimited possibilities and unknown challenges.
In most graduating classes, there are students who will enter immediately into the world of full-time employment, following in the footsteps of their parents or forging new paths. Others will move quickly into the challenges of mature relationships and parenthood. Still other graduates will face challenges of a different sort, including years of higher education and advanced training culminating in their entry into a variety of professions. For these young people, the transition to higher education means an immediate focus on decisions about pursuing a profession and a delay in taking up the challenge of full-time work and/or parenthood. For some graduates, memories of high school will always be a critically important chapter in their life stories; for others, those memories will shrink in importance as new challenges arise.
Graduates of independent schools often have fond and enduring memories of high school because of long-term relationships that may go all the way back to kindergarten and that were formed in a smaller school setting with many opportunities to establish close relationships while working on cooperative learning projects, participating in team sports, enjoying numerous school trips and collaborating on multiple performances, competitions and community service projects. The close-knit relationships formed by these students go well beyond the norm. Later on in life, it is common for independent school graduates to point to their high school friendships as being stronger and more meaningful than those with college friends and even business and professional associates. Lifelong friendships forged in the formative years seem to create a much more powerful bond.
On May 28th, Maui Preparatory Academy will graduate its very first class, the Class of 2010. All eight graduates are headed off to college, most with scholarships in hand. Our hope is that they will take everything that they have learned thus far and use it to be successful in college and beyond. Ultimately, our graduates will write their own life stories filled with chapters that are defined by their character development, service to others, care for the aina, personal growth and relationships with their families, friends, colleagues and communities. Our world needs them as leaders, peacemakers, contributors and ethical members of our society.
As an educator I have attended over fifty graduations since 1970 and have enjoyed hearing the news of students as they continue to write those impressive life stories. I particularly anticipate following the progress of the amazing young adults in the Maui Prep Class of 2010. They will always hold a special place in our hearts as the founding class, the ones who, with us, pioneered the creation of a new school for the West Maui community. In the story of Maui Prep, the school's first graduation will have its own bookmark that allows us to remember with joy that important occasion. Likewise, I hope that it will be a cherished memory deserving of a bookmark in the life stories of the members of the Class of 2010.