One year ago I was one of the graduates in those pumpkin orange gowns walking across that stage. I was confident then, but nervous for what was to come. I vividly remember sitting in my chair, waiting for my name to be called, thinking just how far I had come. I thought back to the big move our family made when I was just in fourth grade. My life could have been much different if I had stayed in the small town of Kingman. Most of all sitting in that chair, I thought of all those who have helped me get to that point. While high graduation was important, it will not be my last graduation. Two things that have stuck with me from graduation and high school, in general, are strong bonds formed between friends do not end with distance and respect for your peers and teachers continues to be essential.
It is a common conception that after graduation one will never see any of the friends they made and kept dearly for 13 years, but if it is strong enough friendship, the distance will not be an issue. No, I do not have the opportunity to visit with friends from high school every morning in physics like in high school, but distance really is only a number. High school graduates this year should not worry: the life you know and love or hate will not disappear entirely. That is a positive for some and a negative for others. I made a choice to keep up with the friends I held dearly from high school, but that is the great part about graduation. It is one's choice of how much to keep or leave behind in the next chapter of one's life. Graduation from high schools opens many doors to opportunities not otherwise available. While a trade degree or bachelor's degree helps secure a certain quality of life, high graduation shows someone has reached an ability to deal with others and succeed. It is no secret that there is animosity between peers in high school; that does not change in college either. While high school is about the material learned in the classroom, it builds interpersonal skills that remain essential far past that walk across the stage.
The most important thing I reflect upon from graduation a year ago is the respect that people still desire as I continue down my path. There was a strong emphasis on respect for teachers and staff in high school, and while it is not enforced with the same gusto in college, the need is still there. A happy professor or graduate teacher assistant is one that is willing to go the extra mile for one to succeed. My classes may now include a few hundred students, but adults still notice the students who arrive on time every day, are not being a distraction during class, and ask good questions. Respect for peers becomes even more important in college. Group projects do not disappear after high school; in fact, they become more important. Very rarely will one be working completely independent of others in the workforce, so there an emphasis on collaboration is necessary. Just as before, communication remains a key aspect to successful collaborations and friendships. As I see many pictures of high school graduates this year I wish them luck. This is only the beginning and things will change, but never let the character values that define who you are change.