High school graduation: Ode to the average student

High school graduation sees loads of 4.0s head across the stage for honors on their way to Harvard. But most wonderful and successful people never went to the stage for an honor. The average student's potential is full of surprises.

AP
High school graduation lauds the 4.0 students, but most successful people never crossed the stage for awards. An ode to the average student praises their potential. Here, the Joplin (Missouri) High School class of 2012 listens to President Obama, their commencement speaker in May.

Graduation season is here. Soon millions of students will be leaving for college or other pursuits. But I wonder how some of them will be affected by the speeches and awards at their commencement ceremonies?

I, along with other relatives and friends, have listened to hours of speeches and watched dozens of the 4.0s come up to the stage for award after award. As I've watched the faces of those not called, I've wondered what it must be like to be a solid "C" student, or one who struggled to hold on to a "B." Did those "average" students feel that, after all the hoopla for the award winners, their fate of mediocrity was sealed?

RELATED: Are you a Helicopter Parent? Take our quiz!

As I sat through one of the longer events, I started composing an address for those "other" kids:

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, congratulations to the valedictorian and the 4.0s. I wish them well, but this is for the rest of you.

You're not off to Stanford or Harvard. Maybe you're going to community college or state college, or your second or third choice. Or maybe you're going to try something different. Good for you! You are all about to do great things. Ahead of you are opportunities for success that you haven't even imagined yet. Maybe success by worldly standards; maybe success by your own standards.

I have one piece of wisdom to share. Much more of our future than we sometimes realize is a matter of chance, and a lot is what we make of those chances.
You might, for example, get a part-time job with a landscaper, find that you love it, and go on to create beautiful environments that bring joy and pleasure to others. Your college roommate's dad might own a business that gives you a summer job, and you might end up running the company. Or you may find the only class that meets a requirement one semester is "Geography of Water" — and you get hooked and eventually design clean-water systems for developing countries.

One of my favorite sayings is, "God laughs, when man makes plans." I don't mean don't plan. But some of those perfectly planned 4.0 lives may take unexpected turns and so will yours. Be ready to make the best of them. The doodles that always got you in trouble may be the groundwork for a cartoon series, the design for a new building, or might enhance the lessons for your future students.

One of those 4.0s might find a medical cure for cancer. But you might find a cure for loneliness. One day you might comb an old woman's hair into a neat little bun, push her wheelchair to a spot next to her favorite rosebush, and listen as she tells you about her garden.

Whoever you were on Commencement Day, whatever others expected of you – well, that's done. Now you get to reinvent yourself. If you were always the super-neat one, you get to loosen up. If you were the class clown, you get to try being serious.

Treat every class as if it's important. You never can tell. Even if you don't become an astronomer, that astronomy class that filled a requirement may turn out to be valuable. You'll acquire study skills that will help you in the next class. Or some star-filled night you may lie on the grass with your children and teach them about the wonders of this universe.

RELATED: Are you a Helicopter Parent? Take our quiz!

Have faith in yourself. Most wonderful, successful people never went to the stage for an award. Many were a lot like you. They kept their minds and hearts open, found a niche, and made the most of it.

So can you. Congratulations.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Susan DeMersseman blogs at Raising kids, gardens and awareness.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.