BY KATHY MCDONALD
The graduation season is here so I would like to offer some thoughts on graduating and the next steps. As the parent of two young males that are graduating this year and facing significant transition stages; one from high school to university and the other from primary school to middle school, I often contemplate on the attributes that are essential to their success. There are the popular character traits of honestly, hard work, discipline and structure. In my opinion gratitude, perseverance and resiliency are quintessential. I think of gratitude because grateful people tend to be happier people. I think they spend less time worrying about what other people have and tend to appreciate what they have however big or small. Perseverance in my opinion is the key to surviving and thriving. I think persevering people are more apt to embrace life with all its ebbs and flows. While the resilient person is not only tenacious, mentally sturdy and hardy but tend to recover quickly from adverse situations.
As I reflect over the activities and events that I have participated in the last two weeks I am filled with a renewed sense of hope. The highlight of the past fortnight has been attending the adult education graduating ceremony at the Central Board Office of the Peel District School Board as well as the graduation ceremony at Parkholme School (This is a school for students fourteen to twenty one years of age with developmental disabilities). Both cohorts have overcome insurmountable obstacles to achieve this milestone. After attending the Parkholme graduation one of my colleagues, Trustee Cameron mentioned “how grateful he was to have a job that allows us to witness so much wonderful student success”. As I reflect on their stories, their journeys, hurdles, hiccups and triumphs I can’t wait to share their stories of hope, dreams and possibilities.
One student shared her story and battle with mental health that temporarily sidelined her goal of getting her high school diploma. After getting counselling and the appropriate therapy she was able to go back and focus on her education. It may have taken ten years but she did it. Several people spoke about the fact that the birth of their child was the impetus for change. The sudden realization that they were responsible for the welfare of another human being motivated them to go back to school and get their diploma. Several were on their way to college or university. At this graduation we see roles being reversed as invariably the children were in the audience witnessing their parents receive their diplomas. Many of the students with exceptionalities spoke about being ready to live independent and fulfilled lives. Most students have developed the appropriate communication and life skills to successfully integrate into the community. Several of the graduates get jobs, live independently and some even go off to college. To witness the sheer joy in each student as they received their award and be part of the celebration by the staff, their family and the community was awe-inspiring. To think that in many societies such students are invariably locked away, abused or simply forgotten; I was Peel Proud. I was proud to be part of such an inclusive educational organization.
I recently came across a motivational excerpt that resonated with me “When we are going down the wrong road it is never too late to turn around”. I thought that this simple fact is so powerful. Because that really sums up what so many graduates that I encountered have done. In an ever increasingly judgmental, harsh and wired world where it is so easy for people to anonymously berate and demean individuals it takes a persevering and resilient spirit to thrive. Though one’s path to achieving one’s goals may change or deviate from its original course you must never lose sight of your goals. The hurdles, deviations or railroading of one’s ultimate goal should be embraced as opportunity for growth and opportunities to learn. Sometimes as individuals we encounter negative people or “plain ole bad mind” people. I am often surprised at how some people get thrills of destroying other people or how many people actively participate in destroying people’s lives, their families and their future. I would encourage you graduates to not be deterred by such “grudgeful” negative people. Surround yourself with positive like-minded people and leave the negativity behind. Do not let other people define you. Do not live up to their low expectation of you. Believe in you. Believe in your dream. Believe in the possibilities.
Use this summer to plan for the future. Don’t aimlessly go through the motions. Write down your goals and post them in a visible place so you can be constantly reminded to stay the course. Make time to rejuvenate. The exams period was stressful for most. So take some time to refresh the body, mind and soul. Do something different and outside your comfort zone. Volunteer, work or play but do not just squander your precious time on social media. Read a book or two or the Toronto Caribbean.
So Walk Good, Belle Marché.