Graduation should be celebrated as a major achievement

Published 2:30 pm Sunday, May 15, 2022

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By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer

I remember my high school graduation vaguely. I remember maybe half the kids in my graduating class and where it was, but I don’t remember the valedictorian’s name or what the principal said in his speech. I do remember that I was happy I was done with high school.

I remember my college graduation to the T, all the way down to what I wore, who I sat next to and the feeling of when they called my name. It stands out more clearly to me because I actually had to fight to graduate college. It took me way longer than the typical four years because due to circumstances I care not to get into, I couldn’t afford classes, so I had to work three jobs to pay for school. I also had to do all of this while fighting poor mental health and dealing with family issues.

When I walked across the stage to accept my college diploma, I felt a combination of pride, relief and satisfaction that I could never have imagined as I walked across the stage to receive my high school diploma.

That being said, I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones because I didn’t have to go through my obstacles while I was in high school. Furthermore, I’m lucky because I actually got to finish high school. There are some teenagers out there who have to fight like I did to finish high school, and that deserves some attention.

As the school year comes to a close for high schools and colleges, hundreds of people are going to walk across the stage and take their diplomas in hand. For some, that journey may have been easy. For the majority, however, that journey was probably very stressful and full of doubt. A wide variety of reasons go into why students don’t finish high school including poor mental health, troubles at home and physical health. The statistics surrounding poor mental health of teenagers today are overwhelming, to say the least. Imagine dealing with all of that and then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.

With all of those obstacles being thrown at them, any teenager that is able to walk across the stage and receive their high school diploma deserves a standing ovation. Shelby County has one of the highest graduation rates of any county in Alabama (a whopping 97 percent graduation rate), and that number can be attributed to the dedicated teachers and administration staff who devote their time to reminding these kids they have a future, the hard work and dedication of the kids themselves need to be acknowledged.

Graduation is not something everyone can attain, and that needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Not everyone has a supportive cheer squad of parents at home, not everyone learns at the same rate and not everyone has access to the internet at home. It should also be acknowledged that, for some, their high school graduation may be the only graduation they get to have at all. If any Shelby County students who are about to graduate are reading this and it hits close to home, I want you to know that you deserve respect for your hard work and you’re going to do great things. You deserve to be celebrated and you deserve that acknowledgment.