I’ve had the pleasure recently of speaking to several groups of graduates, and am amazed at some of the stories I’ve heard.
Last week, I traveled to Graham Public Schools in Weleetka to speak at commencement. While there I heard stories of students who overcame incredible hardship. Some fought through debilitating illness or personal tragedy, but they studied and worked hard, and they earned their diplomas. I also heard of educators who worked every day to help these students pass end-of-instruction or alternate tests so they could graduate with their class.
Last Saturday, I addressed the graduating class at Harding Charter Preparatory High School. Harding has a soft spot in my heart because I helped found the school and have watched as each graduating class exceeded all expectations. Harding accepts any student. It has an incredibly diverse student population. Most students live below the poverty level. Yet, this year’s class of 81 students secured $2.5 million in scholarships, and 100 percent plan to attend college.
Harding was recently ranked the No. 1 high school in the state by U.S. News and World Reports and was ranked No. 9 on Newsweek’s list of Top 25 Transformative High Schools. Congratulations to other schools in the state that made the national lists. These schools are: Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics; Classen School of Advanced Studies; Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa; Dove Science Academy, Tulsa and Oklahoma City; Edmond Memorial, North and Santa Fe High Schools; Norman and Norman High Schools;
and Deer Creek High School.
Perseverance was my theme at both graduation ceremonies. My late husband taught me this lesson. As a child of immigrant Italian parents, John spoke mostly Italian until he was four. Consequently, he struggled in school. But he persevered, graduated, went to college and became a wonderful provider for my sons and me.
The Class of 2012 has learned its own lesson in perseverance. They've learned the value of hard work and they've come to the end of their secondary education. Some will be going off to work, others to college. But wherever they go, I hope all of Oklahoma's graduating seniors take away a dedication to becoming lifelong learners. Each of us is endowed with a great store of inner knowledge and the capacity to learn about new things throughout our lives. So, high school seniors, don't let this be the end of your learning experience, but only the beginning.