I have been providing staff development for educators, keynote presentations and student assemblies for well over 17 years. In this time, I have met wonderful leaders, seen beautiful parts of the country and experiences many memorable events. But, every once in awhile, I experience something that inspires me.
I was recently asked to give a graduation commencement presentation for the Monterey County Office of Education. I have done several of such presentations but quit honestly, I do not feel like this is my most comfortable platform. I often defer it to one of the other presenters in Homeboy Goes to Harvard Productions cadre. This time, I accepted.
The students graduating were from various alternative education schools. These were students who for one reason or another were placed there because they could not fit the norm of a traditional school. Some had attendance problems, behavior problems, came from broken homes or had substance abuse issues. Some were on probation, were teen mother and teen fathers, or in a gang and did better in an environment that was not so restricted. Over 100 students were in attendance and my job was to inspire them.
I understand the challenges that many of these students had to face. I too came from a similar background and felt an obligation to give some guidance and acknowledgment to their success. As I approached the podium to give my presentation, I looked to the students. They were sitting there, in their cap and gowns, anticipating the moment when their name would be called and they would cross the stage to receive their diploma. I can see the excitement and pride in their eyes. What could I say except simply, “Congratulations, you made it”. The parents and community began cheering so loud that the entire hall rumbled with their energy. The look on the students face was of sheer happiness, relief and amazement. They were graduating from high school regardless of all the obstacles and I was there to witness it.