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2,340 days and counting

By DR. JAMES CALLEROZ WHITE
Special Contributor

As Spring finally starts to set in here in Louisville, I am reminded by the buds on the trees, the beautiful Spring flowers and of course, talk of Derby, that the school year is coming to a close. As the school year closes, I want to take some time to talk about the great tradition of graduation and the imaginary “finish line” many students cross once their diploma is in hand. In a few short weeks, many high school seniors will have completed approximately 2,340 days of school in their kindergarten-to-twelfth-grade pursuit of education. For some, this 2,340 days has represented triumph and success, and for others it has meant frustration and pain. But for all high school graduates, it represents the final steps in a very long journey.

The journey to graduate from high school is not an easy one. There are so many distractions and pitfalls that students encounter during this time that have nothing to do with the actual education. They must navigate and nurture friendships. They must change and adapt to a world that is moving faster and faster. They must learn through trial and error the process of decision-making. They have to keep up with an unprecedented proliferation of technology aimed directly at them. They must be able to walk that fine line of adolescence and adulthood blurred even further by the demands and expectations of a society that itself is continuously in flux.

In all honesty, I doubt many of us adults would want to trade places with this year’s graduating seniors. Who is best prepared to inherit a world in so much turmoil, with so much conflict, filled with cultural and environmental demise, and with uncertainty at the center of it all? Short answer: our graduating seniors. You see, this year’s graduating seniors have been dealing with these issues all of their lives, and it is my firm belief that they hold the answer to many of the ills that plague our society. The only question is, have we prepared them for this monumental task? As an educator, I would like to believe that I have done my part, but every day as I look at our students, I am constantly wondering whether I have done enough, challenged enough, questioned enough, nurtured enough, and/or loved them enough to ensure that they are equipped with all of the tools necessary to “cure” the ills that plague us.

It seems odd that we would expect them to solve these problems, yet I am optimistic that they will somehow do it. I am optimistic because even as my current seniors prepare and count down to graduation, I see the creative and questioning spirit that motivates them and that inspires me. I see in them a sense of responsibility and accountability that is grown from the intersection of their own hopes and dreams with the reality of the world that they are inheriting. For as many things as there are for them to be concerned about, they are living and growing up in one of the most amazing time periods in history. I am still not sure that I would want to trade places with them, but I am confident that with time, they will be the leaders, innovators and change agents that are needed for this world to thrive.

When all is said and done, our greatest success as educators, mentors, advocates, parents and guardians will be the success of those that have been in our care. We owe it to this next generation to be optimistic, encouraging and supportive because we know that the challenges that they will face are extremely complicated. As I reflect on the “finish line” of graduation for the seniors, I want to make sure to remind them that graduation simultaneously also means the “starting line” of the next chapter of their lives. My greatest hope is that the next 2,340 days for our graduating seniors are filled with exploration, curiosity, and a belief that they in fact can change the world … and will!

Congratulations to all of those that have supported the graduating seniors, watched over them, and set them on a path to make their dreams come true. But most importantly, congratulations to all of the graduating seniors in the Class of 2014. I wish you well on your next journey, and I look forward to watching you take this world by storm with your ideas, energy and care. I have faith in you and all you represent for our world, so thank you in advance for what you will do for our collective world.