Message to graduates from a Letter to Santa
High school seniors are now graduating from more than 26,000 high schools across our country. Graduation ceremonies feature various speakers from ex-presidents to alumni, each providing messages of encouragement as student’s transition from the K-12 systems to college, careers, military service, or the many other options in their life journey.
Graduating seniors have had to endure a year highlighted by an ever changing school environment. It included moving from face-to-face learning to virtual learning and back again. There were sporadic quarantines, delayed and cancelled sporting events and seasons, all causing heightened levels of anxiety. Many students felt isolated, missing the routines that they would expect daily of a traditional school day.
Students, parents, and communities began to focus on everything they couldn’t have, which has led to a build-up of frustration. This negative energy has made us lose focus on all the things we do have.
A lesson can be learned from a young boy who was born with some health challenges. At an early age, his condition led to hospitalizations for periods of time, not allowing him some of the traditional routines each young boy enjoys as they grow up. Through this he gained a heightened appreciation for what he did have, such as a caring family filled with faith and community support. His view on life can be summed up in his letter to Santa:
This has been a different year for me. I went to Jeffers this year and played basketball on the school team. During the year I took a trip to Hawaii. I snorkeled, swam in a pool and visited an active volcano. This has been a year of new things.
I am asking for nothing this year. It has been a great year for my family and me. You can skip my house this year.
This young man discovered the key to a wonderful life at a young age. The secret is, appreciate what you do have and make the most of it. Life’s journey is what you make of it. This young man was fascinated with the “wonders” that filled each day. Each day presented new opportunities to explore, discover, and learn.
To new graduates, I pass on Owen’s story. Cherish each day and the “wonders” it presents. Be thankful for what you do have, your health, family, friends, faith, and have an appreciation for nature’s beauty. Be kind to others, for we never know the challenges they have faced or are facing. Enjoy the highs and lows of life but always remember tomorrow is another day, filled with the new wonders for you to explore and learn from. Follow these actions and you too will let Santa know “You can skip my house this year.”
Dr. Steve Patchin is Superintendent of Hancock Public Schools. Programs he has contributed to creating include Mind Trekkers and CareerFEST, helping students explore their talents and associated careers in STEM. His research has focused on increasing development of self-efficacy in individual students.