LESLIE CRISS: Graduation is not an ending, but a beginning

“You are educated. Your certification is in your degree. You may think of it as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you to think of an alternative. Think of it as your ticket to change the world.” – Tom Brokaw

When I graduated from Merry Morning Kindergarten, we danced and sang and recited our way through commencement exercises.
And our parents beamed with pride.
I remember little about graduating from eighth grade – except that I was more than ready to leave junior high in the dust and head on to high school.
I’m sure, however, my parents were proud.
High school graduation was traumatic. Who really knew what lay beyond that with which I’d grown oh-so comfortable?
I may have been fearful, but my parents were still proud.
If high school was my comfort zone, my four years in college were heaven. Good friends, a certain amount of independence, Dad still putting money in my checking account.
Graduation was sad. Life would never be the same.
But with my diploma in hand and a degree under my belt, I knew my parents were proud.
The most memorable graduation wasn’t even mine.
It was commencement time for “my kids” – those with whom I came in contact during my best year of being a teacher. We bonded in an amazing way, those kids and I. They were eighth-graders; I was two years out of college.
One day I brought my guitar, sat on a stool in front of my students and sang a few simple songs I’d written. For the rest of the year those kids were putty in my hands.
“We never knew teachers had dreams and heartaches the same as us,” one student told me. “You made us see our teachers are human beings.”
On the night of their high school graduation in the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, two members of the class of 1985 performed one of the songs I’d written and sung for them five years earlier. They did a better job of singing it than I ever had.
Later, as I watched those kids walk across that huge stage to receive their diplomas I smiled at all the potential and possibility. I knew most of them, no matter where life took them, would make every effort to be the best they could be.
And they have.
On that long-ago late-May evening I, along with the parents of the class of 1985, was bursting with pride.
All these years later I still am.

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For weeks now, we at the Journal have been working on our annual graduation section, which will publish Sunday, June 5. I have read the resumes of many 2011 graduates and I have been impressed with their goals, and their interest in helping others.
It has made me more hopeful for the future.
Congratulations, graduates.
Press on.

“Twenty years from now
you will be more disappointed
by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from
the safe harbor. Catch the
trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

Contact Leslie Criss at (662) 678-1584 or leslie.criss@journalinc.com.

Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal