Close your eyes. Well, actually, that may not be the most productive way to start a review. Keep your eyes focused on these words, but metaphysically close them. Think back – years, maybe – to when you were 17 or 18. A senior in high school. The world was your oyster, or so you thought. Your last year of school was a joke, or at least you treated it like one. And it all led up to the biggest event in your still-short life: high school graduation. What a time. For a group of students at the high school where I work, today was that day. And it was quite a circumstance, with just enough pomp.
Before we continue I want you to open this link, and listen to it as you read. It really adds to the ambiance.
I’ve been working at (redacted) Academy practically since it opened in 2011. I’ve met hundreds of young, South Central students – kids I otherwise never would have known. I’ve even seen a few of them graduate from a school I helped establish, which is a pretty cool feeling. Today, 60 teenagers made the transition from senior to alumnus, and I’m relatively happy I could be there.
Thusfar, our graduation ceremonies at (redacted) take place in the MPR (that’s “multi-purpose room,” for those of you who grew up calling it an auditorium). Our senior classes (or at least, those who graduate) have been small enough to be accommodated by such a room, though next year looks to be a different story. Might I recommend the horse arena in Maryland where my high school graduation ceremony took place?
Now look, of course I’m going to attend the ceremony. That’s mostly because I wasn’t given a choice, but I am pretty sure that I would have gone anyway, even if it was not widely considered mandatory. Our principal tries to involve the faculty and staff by dressing us in cap and gown, and marching us around like pieces on her chessboard, but it’s all really in the interest of making the ceremony appear prestigious.
“Prestige” is an important concept at (redacted) Academy. Despite only being three years old, the administration is dead-set on establishing iron-clad traditions and a culture that can be celebrated for years to come. I think the intention is good, but the execution could use a little work.
Perhaps the students just aren’t ready. Or maybe even the parents, because when your commencement speaker is at the podium, and almost no one is paying attention, that’s not a good culture to cultivate. There is a language barrier in that part of the neighborhood, so that might have played a part in the audience’s disregard, but there’s no excuse for the students. This speech is directly aimed at them. It is intended to inspire each of these young people as they step into the next phase of their life, but they’re too busy trying to figure out how they are going to get back onstage to even bother listening.
To be fair to the students, the commencement speaker wasn’t the best. She brought an untested power point and blundered her way through a speech that was mostly about the good that her company does. I don’t remember anything about the speaker at my graduation, but the fact that I don’t remember it being terrible probably means it was better than this.
Speeches in general are tough to pull off, I know. Not everyone can read naturally from a piece of paper in front of an audience – even if they wrote the words. But, come on y’all, let’s at least run through that sucker once before you get on stage.
The 90+ minute ceremony wasn’t all bad. I mean, it could have been longer. Plus, some heartfelt words were spoken, and I felt a small bit of pride when a few of the names were called. I’ve known these kids for three years now, and I’ve been directly involved in their education. Some of them are huge dicks, some of them are naively sweet, and some of them might actually figure life out, but I’m happy for all of them. They did something that a disappointingly large number of people don’t get to do. The future is unclear for all of these young adults, but it is for everyone. When I graduated seven years ago I never expected my life to look the way that it does. Who knows, maybe one of these kids will be working at a high school and writing mostly random blog entries in 2021. I can’t figure out if that’s a good or a bad thing, but I suppose I helped them get there regardless.