Anxiously sitting on an aisle seat, well-positioned to take photos of my daughter in her cap and gown, I hear the processional music begin. Duuuuum dum-dum-dum duuuuum dum. That song I expected to choke me up as my only child finished her first 13 years of education… didn’t. The good news is that I managed to get some fantastic shots of her coming down the aisle. The bad news is that I can’t figure out why I wasn’t more emotional.
Maybe it’s because she’s already accomplished so much. Maybe because there’s so much more ahead of her. Maybe because in the grand scheme of things, a high school diploma is just a piece of paper that doesn’t even scratch the surface on the whole story of what that student has done or what they have become.
I don’t mean to diminish a diploma’s importance. It’s certainly something to be proud of: to successfully meet academic expectations, to survive girls that are downright mean, to navigate teachers that show favoritism to other students, to adjust to three coaches in four years of varsity volleyball, and to adapt to regularly shifting administration that changes priorities and how rules are set and enforced is no small task. And Olivia got through it with the grace of someone well beyond her years, never letting them see her shed a tear.
High school is simply brutal and I assert that a diploma is as much a testament to your survival skills as it is to your academic prowess. And you could not pay me enough to do high school over again.
Today, as I sit in a role of business owner and have the opportunity to review job applications, a high school diploma is a given; I assume you have one. What I care more about is all the other stuff in your life: things you’ve done that demonstrate organizational, leadership, collaboration and communication skills that are so much more valuable to our team than that piece of paper with a gold seal in a padded casing.
If a diploma symbolizes surviving, then it’s the everything else you’ve done that comprises the thriving. Finding things that fuel your passion. Discovering what matters to you. Challenging your natural talents. Those are the things that truly drive your personal growth and shape the person you will become. So while I was proud of Olivia for surviving high school – with honors – I’m more proud of the quick-witted, discerning and caring leader she’s grown into through sports, social life and part-time work. There’s not a piece of paper with a gold seal for those accomplishments, but there should be.
–Jane Olvera Quebe, President