June 4, 2010 marked exactly six years since the day I walked across the platform at Stoneleigh-Burnham School and received my diploma. Since that day I have (in no particular order), graduated from college, become Associate Director of Admissions, Student Activities Coordinator and big sister/mentor/pseudo-mom to 18 pre-teen girls at Stoneleigh-Burnham School, learned the hard way that you can’t make ice cream sandwiches if the cookies haven’t cooled for AT LEAST a day, figured out that you should always take a change of clothes when visiting old friends and that Boston really isn’t far from Greenfield (even though everyone from Western MA thinks it is). I’ve discovered that if you make funfetti anything everyone will love it and that if your cookies vary from the standard chocolate chip/peanut butter/sugar (or some variation on these three flavors) pre-teen girls won’t like them.
I recognize that these experiences do not make me wise…I still have a WHOLE lot to learn, but I have learned every step of the way and on the occasion of your graduation I would like to share some of what I have learned with you.
First, and foremost, this is not an ending but a beginning. Stoneleigh-Burnham will always be a part of your life and as you leave it behind to begin the next chapter of your life rejoice in the experiences you have had here. You are part of something wonderful and you are prepared to take on the world. Leave with the knowledge that you have made a difference in the lives of your teachers, classmates and friends. Stoneleigh-Burnham will never forget you.
Second, remember to have fun. Often throughout the next few years you may find yourself consumed with schoolwork. No matter how busy you are or how many projects you have, remember to take a few minutes each day to enjoy life. Though it may be a cliche, you are only young once…enjoy the next few years, they won’t be like any others.
Third, remember where you came from. It is easy to get caught up in things as a young adult. Sometimes it can be difficult to know which path is the right one. Remember your roots and where life has already taken you. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in or to take the path less traveled. You’ll be amazed at the experiences you might have otherwise missed.
Fourth, invite others to be a part of your life. It is easy to get caught up in the college experience. Remember that it is important to include those you care about in your life even when they are far away (whether that’s Greenfield or Korea). It’s easy to forget to call old friends or to send notes to teachers who influenced you, but remember that you wouldn’t be where you are today without their help. Emails and letters remind those you care about that they still matter.
Finally, remember that even you can make a difference. Sometimes it really does take just one person…
Once upon a time there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore and as he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer.
He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. He began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking something up and very gently throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer he called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?” The young man paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish in the ocean.” “Why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?” “The sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.” “But, young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young man listened politely then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean, past the breaking waves and said – “It made a difference for that one.”
Congratulations and best wishes to all the 2010 graduates. Go out into the world and make us proud!