It is so much easier to think of the collective class of 2022. Collectively, they are amazing, resilient, and full of potential. Yet when graduation ends, these students stand alone, their future before them. It can be exciting and full of hope. It can also be scary and anxiety-inducing.
Over the last few weeks and in the coming days, thousands of graduation exercises have and will occur. Graduation exercises are an important moment in life. Proud parents, grandparents, guardians, and friends watch with pride as loved ones receive their diplomas -- the milestone forever memorialized. Influential keynote speakers, often members of the same community as the graduates themselves, will share words of wisdom aimed toward their next adventures in life. For most, this is a truly inspiring, memorable, and celebratory event.
As students cross the stage to receive their diplomas, there is a uniformity to the process, matching cap and gown, dress, suit or tuxedo. Yet, each student has deeply personal feelings at this moment. Some are excited about what is to come; others are fearful about leaving the safety of a place that has nurtured them for years; others are relieved that it is over. Some students feel apart, disconnected, uncertain about their future, and afraid of becoming who they are or what they want to do in life. Maybe they walked across the stage before heading home to an empty house and no friends with whom to celebrate. This is an unfortunate truth for some students and is sometimes forgotten.
This season, let's remember to celebrate the members of the graduating class, not the class itself -- a subtle but important distinction. The individual graduates define the class, the class does not define them. Each has their own experience, feelings, dreams, and expectations.
Graduation is an amazing moment, and it should also be a time of celebration, reflection, and gratitude. However, leading up to one's graduation, not every child has the benefit of a quality education or family or teachers who can help guide them through the challenges of school and growing into adulthood. Sadly, many children are lost in the system, just another number to move along, ship in and ship out.
Students in Catholic schools have an advantage. On top of receiving a high-quality education, students in Catholic schools are known. They are treated as individuals known and loved by God, even if they don't see this or believe it themselves. Each student is a unique gift from God, challenged to be themselves, while at the same time, being bombarded with definitions of who they should be by family, peers, and in the media. These are challenging times for young people.
Grasping their diplomas and walking across the stage is just the start. The journey of discovery, uncertainty, and growth into adulthood has truly just begun. It can be a scary time for students and families. It is so much easier to think of the collective class of 2022. Collectively, they are amazing, resilient, and full of potential. Yet when graduation ends, these students stand alone, their future before them. It can be exciting and full of hope. It can also be scary and anxiety-inducing. In fact, it can be both -- and each student will experience this in their own way.
This spring, over 140 Catholic Schools Foundation scholars will graduate and go on to attend many top colleges and universities, such as Boston College, Notre Dame, Columbia, Brown, Johns Hopkins, and Duke. Let's pray and hope that the members of the class of 2022 embrace their uniqueness and come to understand and feel that they are known and loved by God.
In this Easter season, a season of hope, let us also pray that whatever anxiety or uncertainty these graduates feel is replaced by optimism for the future and the difference they can make in our world. These students are our future and the world needs their leadership more than ever.
Congratulations members of the class of 2022.
- Michael B. Reardon is executive director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, www.CSFBoston.org.
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