The following message was included in our Graduation 2021 program distributed at our graduation ceremony.
To the class of 2021:
I have to imagine that when you are reminiscing about your high school years some far-off day in the future, you will begin with the bizarre, unprecedented nature of your final two years. It’s understandable. You’ve experienced something with which none of your teachers, parents, or even older siblings can relate -- a high school career seemingly held hostage by a pandemic.
However, my hope is that when you recall your public school experience you remember more than just these past two years. And when you think about graduation, you realize the piece of paper you’ve earned is more than just a diploma.
Many of you will undoubtedly go on to receive other diplomas from colleges and universities or trade schools. Perhaps instead it’s some other credential or certification. Regardless, I would imagine that many of those future diplomas will likely be framed and adorn the wall of your home or office.
It’s understandable that post-secondary diplomas are revered in a way high school diplomas many times are not.
They’re less common.
They’re considered advanced.
But I would argue that the high school diploma you’ll hold in your hands is the most important diploma you -- or any of us -- will ever earn.
That’s because it is more than just a diploma.
It’s not a receipt of the amount of seat time you accumulated, nor is it not merely proof you earned a prescribed number of credits. Instead, your high school diploma is the final page of the book documenting the most formative years of your life. You’re not just graduating from high school today -- you’re graduating from Marion County Public Schools.
You wouldn’t be here today without the time you spent in the middle grades, and you wouldn’t have been there without the time you spent in elementary school. The diploma you receive today represents all of those years and experiences at all grade levels.
With that in mind, I can promise you that the teachers, principals, even the school buildings throughout this district, are all here for one reason: to prepare you for your future. That’s a fact about public education that can be easy to forget. Too often we are all bogged down by the day-to-day requirements and need reminding of something larger. That “something” is a diploma, but it’s also so much more.
It’s who you have become and it’s who you will become, whether you think of it as over the next four years or the next forty. Regardless, it all began in MCPS.
During your time in this school district, you defined yourself as a scholar, or an athlete, or a creator, or a leader. In a very real way, your time as an MCPS student is the story of you becoming a young adult, and the memories you’ll share about your childhood with your own children someday will undoubtedly include the time you spent as a student in this school district.
So, whether your ambitions include other diplomas or not, I’m asking you to treat the diploma you receive from Marion County Public Schools as the precious, invaluable document that it is.
Frame it. Preserve it. Showcase it.
It’s more than just a diploma.