Thursday, June 12, 2014

UPCS graduation address

Because I know some enjoy reading these, here's my speech to the University Park Campus School graduating class tonight:

It is a privilege to be with you today, to give you some parting words from the Worcester Public Schools before you leave us.
You’ve been told many things in your time with us--
“Sit criss-cross-applesauce.”
“Stay in your own square on the rug.”
“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”
“Raise your hand so I can call on you.”
“Circle, box, and underline.”
“Put your name on the first line, your school on the second line, and ‘Worcester Public Schools’ on the third line. Fill in every circle completely and make a dark mark.”

So today, I’m going to take the classic tack of so many graduation speakers before me and tell you to unlearn everything you’ve learned so far.
Okay, not really. But the main thing that you’ve been told a lot about during your years at UPCS has been “college readiness.”
Notes? College readiness.
Being on time? College readiness.
Taking personal responsibility? College readiness. It’s all about college readiness.

So here’s one last addition about college readiness, from me:
It’s not about sitting criss-cross-applesauce on your own square on the rug waiting to be called on.
It’s not about taking what you’ve gotten and not being upset.
It’s not about putting yourself on lines or in boxes or around circles. 
Graduating today means that University Park Campus School and the people in front of us believe that you have what it takes to make it in college.
Those college admission letters you received earlier this year means that the colleges believe that you have what it takes to make it in college.

The real test of college readiness, of course, comes not now, but a few months from now, when you’re actually at college.
You see, there may come a time in August, or October, or January, when you think:

“This is all a mistake.” “What am I doing here?!”
The real test of college readiness kicks in with what you do next.
You can decide that you are the only person who has failed the quiz or feels homesick or doesn’t have the money for pizza or has never written a paper that long or has no idea what the professor is talking about in that class.
And it can end there.
Or you can realize that you aren’t the only one.

Let me tell you something that otherwise you might not hear until your fifth or tenth or twentieth college reunion.
It isn’t just you.

If you walk around a typical college reunion, and you were to ask “was there a time you didn’t think you should be here?” you’re going to hear a whole lot of people say ‘yes.’ People who raised their hands in class, got their work in on time, had fantastic social lives, were involved in lots of activities...they didn’t know what they were doing at some point, too. 
It is what they did with that which determined that they got their degree in the end--
Failing the quiz or not knowing what the professor is talking about means you go to office hours...because asking for help is a college readiness skill. Being homesick means you reach out for support...because finding the support you need is a college readiness skill.

Not having money for pizza means you either find a job or find something else to do...because budgeting is a college readiness skill, too.
The most important college readiness skill that we can send you out of here with, though, is the fierce belief that we’ve pushed to instill in you that you are ready for college.
That you can do this.

That you are college material.
If there is a line in your life that says “University Park Campus School” and “Worcester Public Schools,” one that leaves a dark mark, my hope for you is that it says this:
You are ready for college. You are ready for what happens next.
Remember that we are always here to remind you of that if that circle needs to leave a little darker of a mark.
And our very best wishes go with you, Class of 2014. 

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