This is the time of year when the expected happens, when many accomplished students walk across the stage and receive awards everyone knew they would earn. Countless numbers of able-minded youngsters finally receive their just due and see the fruits of their labor acknowledged by others. The end of a school year is certainly quite magical, and more likely than not, most of us have already or will be attending some sort of celebration of student accomplishment before we all head for the beach this summer.
But it’s also the time of year when the unexpected happens, and that’s what I really like. I lean towards the come-from-behind stories that make my heart smile. The underdogs who baffle and astound me - who make me think there is still hope in the world.
Last week our senior class president came to me in a tizzy. She is charged with giving a speech at graduation, and all she had with her was a blank sheet of paper and some wild eyes full of fearful anxiety. We sat down together, and I asked what her vision was for her portion of the ceremony. All she knew was that she wanted to address the obstacles she and her classmates had overcome to get to graduation and then encourage them to keep fighting. Well, that was certainly something to work with!
We reminisced a bit to get ourselves in the mood to write, and all I could think about concerning our senior class president was how she was in 9th and 10th grades. Loud. A tad rambunctious. Maybe a little torn between behaving and not. We laughed about how she was back then, but we talked a great deal about how she is now. Still loud. Still a little bit crazy, but definitely much more mature and focused.
That’s what she could use in her speech. Defining or defying expectations. True, everyone expected her to be speaking at graduation…but certainly not from the podium. Most people would have pegged her to be one of the rowdy graduates all the teachers kept an eagle eye on, hoping and praying she wouldn’t disrupt the ceremony. No one, however, would have thought she would grow up to become the president of the class and stand before a thousand people to sound the charge for her fellow graduates.
But that’s the beauty of this time of year - when both the stars and the hidden gems find their way to center stage.
So, I knew what was sitting in front of me that day we worked on her speech. I had a hidden treasure that had been made more perfect over time and would baffle quite a few come graduation night. We seized the opportunity to create a memorable moment, and we designed a speech that is going to make an impact. People are going to expect one thing but get another. Because, well, that’s what she has done to me and many others at our school.
Like my school’s senior class president, many of our students across this great city have amazed us. They have accomplished the expected and soared to heights unexpected. The fact of the matter is: we are a blessed community. If our kids reflect how great our city is, then we are definitely on the right path. So, congratulations to all our students – the expected and unexpected alike.