Wow. The day that you have worked these past thirteen days for is here. Very soon, you will be walking across that stage in your cap and gown and ending the first major chapter of your life. You’ll soon be sitting through your service – listening to your principal beam with pride discussing your classes accomplishments, hearing the choir sing, and listening to your class president say their last few words to your class as a whole. Take a look around you – at the boy to your left, the girl to your right – you may never see these people again. Some people will go off to college – studying to be doctors and teachers and journalists. Some may even end up at the same university as you, while others will continue their study states, or even countries, away. Others will head straight off to work – maybe at a local fast food restaurant or helping with their family business. Some will make the ultimate sacrifice and decide to serve our country. Some will stick true to their promise of never returning to this small town ever again while some won’t ever leave. A couple may get married, and in nine months or so some of your classmates may even become parents. Never again, no matter how hard your class officers try, will your entire class be in one room together again. Take a good look at the faces you’ve known for these past thirteen years and keep these last few moments together engraved as a final photograph in your mind.

Do not rush these moments by as they will fly by fast enough. Sit in your seat and soak every second in. Listen to the words of wisdom in the speakers’ voices and hum along with the familiar tunes the band will play. Take a look around the gymnasium or auditorium – at all the faces, beaming with pride and maybe a few tears, ready to celebrate you. And when you finally get your chance to walk across that graduation stage, do it with the brightest smile on your face. You deserve to be very proud of yourself for what you have accomplished.

You are going to feel a lot of different feelings on your graduation day. All of your feelings are completely valid. Some of you will be relieved and will throw your cap up in the air without a tear in your eye – you’re beyond thankful to be done. Some of you will gush with pride and will just want to soak in the fact that you’ve actually accomplished this. Others will cry, but don’t feel bad for your tears. This is the life and the people you’ve known for the past thirteen years – it’s okay to feel a little sad to see it go. Some of you will be so scared of the future you’ll spend the entire ceremony in shock. Others will just be so ready for the after party and for summer that they won’t really care what’s happening – they’re just ready for it all to be done. Whatever you’re feeling come graduation – pride, fear, sadness, joy – know that your feelings are valid and will likely come in waves. And that’s okay.

Graduation day is not the end. In fact, it’s actually a bright, beautiful, new beginning. Once you have that diploma, you have a key that can unlock any door you choose. Whether it’s to go straight off to the work force or to spend the next eight years in law school, it is your life to live…and come graduation day, it’s all just beginning. Your life begins once you’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone, and by leaving high school, you’re doing just that. Within a year or so, you’re going to wonder why everyone calls high school the best four years of your life because the aftermath is so much brighter. It’s great to take a moment and celebrate your past and all that you’ve accomplished because for as hard as you’ve worked, you really do deserve it - but don’t be afraid to begin moving on, too. You have dreams to chase and a wonderful life to live – so go to it! It all begins today. Congratulations, graduating class, and begin to move mountains.