Dear Graduate of the AHS Class of 2017,
Every year I write a letter to the seniors. Sometimes I read it out loud to my students in class. Often, I turn into a blubbering mess. I think the reason I get so emotional is because I take ownership in each student who passes through these doors. I do not take my role here lightly. I feel honored and blessed that my job puts me in touch with such great people on a daily basis. This is a special place where joys, sorrows, victories, losses, hopes and dreams have been shared. Learning becomes a lifelong adventure inside these walls.
I love being from Aurora. I have always loved being a Houn’ Dawg. I cherish the 1970s when I graduated. My class of 1979 was not so different -- despite the decades that separate us. We were loyal. We loved our hometown. We wondered what the world would hold for us. We treasured our friendships. (We also loved disco, tie-dye and 8-track tapes; but that’s another letter!)
I try hard to give each class my best advice, a little encouragement and some ideals to hold onto as opportunities and choices begin to land at your feet.
1. Love deeply. When you are committed to something and passionate about people, they usually rise to your expectations.
2. Be kind. You will never regret it. You will, however, regret harsh words said in anger, mocking someone who looks up to you or projecting your personal disappointments about yourself onto someone else. Don’t do it. People remember kindness and generosity. Those traits will start a ripple that could change the world.
3. Take a few risks. Change is hard and taking risks is scary. But a few, well-planned, calculated risks can reap huge rewards. Get outside of your comfort zone. We learn when we squirm.
4. Laugh often. Humor is magical medicine. Learning to laugh at ourselves and chuckle with others is good for your soul. That doesn’t mean you have to be a clown or that you need to make fun of others; it just simply means to look for the humor in every situation.
5. Be relentless. If you want something bad enough, find a legal, moral and ethical way to get it. Apply for that dream job. Get certified and qualified for everything you think you may want to do someday. If you get rejected, try again. Being able to land on your feet with resiliency brings on a layer of determination. Timing is everything. Never quit. Challenges just tell us how bad we want something.
6. Know when to compromise. I’ll be honest. I grew up thinking that compromising makes you weak. As I’ve grown older, I have come to realize everything I feel strongly about is not worth an all-out battle. You have to pick and choose your battles. Sometimes a slow, genuine compromise can save a relationship, a friendship, a job or even a marriage.
7. Never compromise your faith, your family, your friends or your integrity. Those are the deal-breakers. A good friend gave me that simple advice one time when something painful was about to happen to me and I knew I had to take a stand. Her advice made it simple. That rule helped land me here at Aurora High School, where I hope to be for several more years to come.
8. Pay it forward. Service to others is one of the most rewarding things you can ever do. Get involved. Make a difference. Do things for nothing. Pick up some trash. Join a civic organization. Pay for someone’s drink in the drive-thru line. Hold the door open for someone. Look around you for someone in need. Find a way to help them without them even knowing it. Make a promise every day to do one simple act of “paying it forward.”
9. Forgive, as often as you can. Holding on to baggage and grudges will eat you up and destroy the good things you have going on in your lives. Forgive yourselves. Forgive others. Let it go. You can set boundaries to keep people from taking advantage of you, but hating on them takes up way too much time and energy.
10. Have fun. Working hard is a great trait. There is nothing wrong with being a hard worker. But, before you know it, the decades will have passed. Kick up your heels. Play in the yard. Go barefoot in the grass. Slow dance in the garage. Have some fun.
Bask in the joys of your accomplishments today and in the days to come. There will be a few setbacks, a few surprises and a few disappointments along the way. That’s okay. That’s what life is all about. We get to find out who we really are in the way that we respond to those things.
Know who you are. You are Houn’ Dawgs. You are strong. You are going to be just fine. Remember to be safe. Surround yourselves with people who believe in you, people who have your back and will lift you up. Smile and walk away from those who don’t. I will be here cheering you on, praying for your protection and hoping life makes your dreams come true. If you need a shoulder to cry on or some sage advice from someone who has been in your shoes, I’m here—loving each and everyone one of you with all of my heart.
Congratulations. Embrace the journey -- but remember ALL ROADS LEAD HOME.
Good luck and Godspeed,