A great lesson from summer school

Published 9:39 pm Monday, August 4, 2014

Though it didn’t have quite the pomp and ceremony experienced by those who graduated on time, last week’s summer school graduation ceremony held a unique and important message.

At Lakeland High School on Thursday, 28 students graduated with their high school diplomas — just a little late.

With a fraction of the graduates featured in each of the ceremonies for the three public high schools, it was appropriate the event was considerably shorter.

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The superintendent and the summer school principal still had some words of congratulations and encouragement, and the students still enjoyed the ritual of walking the stage to receive their diplomas.

One thing completely unchanged from the mainstream ceremonies was the excitement and pride among family and friends.

Plenty of whoops still rang inside the auditorium, and many graduates still responded to the energy with little displays of showmanship.

But the thing that was different was the sense that these graduates had to fight a little harder to earn their diplomas.

Many of them perhaps had believed the all-important piece of paper was out of reach, but they proved to the world they could rise to a personal challenge and overcome.

For that reason, while it was slightly toned down from the King’s Fork and Nansemond River high school ceremonies at Norfolk’s Ted Constant Convocation Center, and the Lakeland High School ceremony here in Suffolk, the summer school graduation felt more special.

When it was over, graduates gathered outside with family and friends for photos. There were fist-bumps, a couple of caps launched into the air, and more than a few tears.

The lesson these young folks teach us — and this was the theme of Superintendent Deran Whitney’s speech to them — is about perseverance.

While many of their peers had a much easier time graduating high school, relative to the 28 on Thursday, they missed this lesson.

From what I’ve seen, in many cases it isn’t the best and brightest who achieve the most. Because they never have to learn to struggle and overcome, they never do.

The folks who don’t fall into this category, on the other hand, become intimate with perseverance, struggle, tenacity and determination early in life — the things every successful person knows a lot about.

When these young people meet the many more challenges life will bring them, they’ll be able to look back upon the achievement of graduating high school and, knowing they’re strong enough and resourceful enough, decide not to fold.