Thursday, June 12, 2008

Inspirational Graduates

This article appeared in the Seattle PI today. (I like to read these sort of things to my son when he gets a little whiny about his life and his parents expectations.)

My interest in these kinds of articles is why some people, even kids, are able to rise above circumstances and do well. Is it something in their chemistry or what? That kind of knowledge (if it's even possible to know but there must be some similar characteristics among these types of people) could help educators to reach more students. Heck, it could help all of us help students.

For more inspiration, here's a link to CMU Professor Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture" speech. It is worth listening to with your kids (if they are older - Professor Pausch is dying of cancer and has only a few months to live). He really wrote this only for his 3 children, all under the age of 6, but they are too young to hear and comprehend it so he gave it to his students. It is one of YouTube's videos with the most hits.

Oh heck, while we're at it, here's JK Rowling's speech to Harvard graduates (I'm only providing the initial link; there are 2 other parts that you can access easily at this URL). It is both funny, touching and inspiring.


Anonymous said...

It sounds trite to say that students like those in that article are "an inspiration", but that's what they are. It's young people like that who remind me that it's possible to overcome much with the right support and internal strength. It also helps put the myth that "kids these days" are nothing but trouble to rest.

I wish them all well in the future endevors.

seattle citizen said...

The last graduating class of the John Marshall Alternative School walked last night. It was indeed inspirational to see these young men and women stand proudly to recieve their diplomas.

It was only five students, as Marshall's Alt. program was frozen last summer, and the program had already been diminishing previously.

Two of the five were in Running Start. Two were in Seattle Vocational Institute/Bright Futures. (Bright Futures grew out of the need to connect Marshall students to further vocational opportunity, in this instance to SVI.)

The fifth student was in neither of these programs, but was on a path of her own.

These five students all had various and sundry mountains to climb. In my opinion, what brought them to the stage last night was a realization, a cathartic moment, an eye-opening...a moment or series of moments during which they saw a future and reached for it. Regardless of their circumstance, (again, in my opinion; who really knows the inner motivation?) each saw a light and ran towards it, each saw that the "here and now" was not necessarily the way the "there and then" of their futures had to be.

What caused these paradigm shifts in these students? A mature glimpse of futures yet to be. Perhaps because there had been "issues" in their past, perhaps because they saw hope in the form of opportunity, perhaps they suddenly understood that the future was theirs to grasp and the future could be either grim and despondent or hopeful and active...

Just my interpretation, again, but in numerous instances I SAW IN THEIR EYES this shift to forward thinking. I saw determination, I saw an abandonment of the ways of the present in favor of plans for the future.

What helped? I'd like to think we educators showed them some pathways. I'd like to think that their families, through eye-opening displays of dysfunction or through loving attention and pushing from behind inspired progress. I'd like to think that the community, by offering such diverse opportunities as Bright Futures, Dollars for Scholars, SVI, SCCC and NSCC, the UW (one scholar is bound for that institution), gave these students a glimmer of hope, a look at possibilities.

These five students are well on their way to active, self-determined, dedicated progress. They are well on their way to becoming the productive, compassionate, engaged citizens we all wish them to be (as we wish it for ourselves.)

These are examples of how "hope floats." There are so many more students who need this hope. You see them on the Ave, at 3rd and Pine, in the classrooms with their hoods up and their eyes down. We MUST provide more hope, we MUST open doors and carve more pathways. Their lives depend on it, and as theirs do, so do ours.

Congratulations to the Class of 2008, John Marshall Alternative School! You inspire me to keep pushing, to keep advocating, to keep behind you lending a shoulder and what knowldege I might have that will benefit you.

But it's up to each to look for the hope, to have the courage and strength to keep it afloat.

"Courage! All goes if courage goes...I would that I could provide you with this courage, but courage is a staff that each must carve for him or herself." (J.M. Barrie)

seattle citizen said...

Here's one of my favoritespeeches, made by J.M. Barrie at St. Andrews University, Scotland, in 1922 (or 1921, I forget.) He was the Rector, and was speaking to a class that had lost up to maybe a quarter of its male population to the deadly fields of Flanders and other killing fields during WWI.
It's called "Courage."

Michael Rice said...

School ends on Tuesday and we had finals on Thursday and Friday, so I had been scrambling trying to find something meaningful for Monday. This article was the solution. I'm going to have my students read it and then reflect on it and what it means to them and what can they take away from it. We have had an influx of students from East Africa this year, so I'm hoping the stories will be an inspriation to them.