This coming Friday, my son, Stephen, will graduate from the ranks of junior high and officially become a freshman. Just hearing those words brings pride at having reached a new milestone, and a twinge of heartache knowing, that once again, my young man is growing up. Too quickly, albeit, but growing up nonetheless.
About two weeks ago, Stephen informed me that he had been selected by the academic staff of his current school for a special honor. Each year the collective body of teachers at High Point Academy selects one student of the graduating class who exemplifies leadership, a positive attitude, strong academic achievements, and overall good moral character. For the High Point Academy’s graduating class of 2010, my son was the student selected who best exudes the above criteria. Both Stephen and I were pleasantly (and I emotionally) surprised by the honor. Having gone through an incredibly difficult year this past year, with having lost my job and coming within hours of almost losing our home and subsisting on very little, this was a most welcomed proclamation of good news.
Throughout the extenuating circumstances of last year our mantra was “Positive outlook equals positive outcome”. I’ll admit there were days when it was hard to utter or live those words, but overall, it was a driving force for us. I would never have known that one end result would be Stephen being recognized for his attitude of gratitude and overall optimism.
As a result of having this honor, Stephen was asked to write a 4-5 minute speech. He thought long and hard about what message he wanted to convey and how he could have one final positive impact on his classmates. He started writing his speech on a paper placement at our favorite Mexican restaurant. From there, the speech continued to evolve. Last night he put the final touches on his speech and I was blown away by what he wrote. I applaud you, Stephen!
Here it is.
First and foremost, I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to address you today. As most of you know, I came to High Point Academy in 2008, entering the 7th grade. I had previously attended The Walden School, which offers a more alternative learning program. I was attracted to High Point because of its solid reputation and structured, disciplined, academic environment. I was also impressed by the genuine welcome of the existing student body. When you’re the new kid on the block it can be quite overwhelming. I had concerns about moving into a vastly different learning environment, but the students and teachers at High Point quickly put me at ease, made me feel welcomed, and instilled in me the belief that I could, indeed, be successful here. Within my first few weeks at High Point I realized that I was in a place that was far better than I had expected. I was being challenged academically, trained in new fundamental principles about life, forging new friendships, and being allowed to flourish creatively. Every morning at drop off, my mom would say “Stephen, make good choices today”. In looking back over these past two years, I can honestly say that I’m thankful that my parents were successful in making the good choice for me to attend High Point Academy.
Although I’ve only been at High Point for two years, my time here has been filled with great memories. A few of those highlights are
- The School Dances
- Premiering my films Twisted and The Giver.
- Going on the end of year camping trip to Leo Carrillo. We all really bonded on that trip.
As you all know, our school mascot is the eagle. The eagle is the American symbol of nobility, strength, freedom and pride. The eagle is immensely powerful, yet majestic to watch in flight. Before an eagle can even learn to take flight, it must go to the very edge of the safety and comforts of its nest and make the choice to jump. It’s said that one must fall before one can fly. This is no different for the most regal and honored of birds. Almost always, the baby eagle will fall to the ground. Once on the ground, it builds up its strength, masters its flying skills, and with unwavering discipline, determination and practice, the baby eagle becomes strong and confident enough to take flight and spread its wings in full extension into the boundless sky above.
As the High Point class of 2010 stands here on the precipice of the nest’s edge and heads off to our respective high schools and the adventures that await us, I’ll agree it can look intimidating. Yet, until each of us takes that daunting leap off the edge, we’ll never know the bliss of being able to soar to our full potential. Granted, we’ll tumble and fall, but in due time, we’ll build up our strengths, come into our own awareness of who we are, develop specialized skills, grow, master our potential, and eventually, like the eagle, spread our wings in full expansion into the boundless sky of life’s limitless possibilities.
To the class of 2010, today is the day to spread our wings. To the teachers of High Point Academy, thank you for being the strength and support in helping us take flight. To the parents of the High Point Academy graduating class, thank you for being the never-ending wind beneath our wings. You all have our eternal round of applause.
And now my friends, it is time for us to spread our wings, and fly into the limitless sky before us.