Now is a time for gratitude over pride.
Typically, a graduation speaker may take this opportunity to congratulate students, reflect on the past four years and provide wisdom for what lies ahead. Despite the undeniable importance in highlighting the triumphs we have shared as students, we often fail to recognize and appreciate the staff members that have contributed to our success.
Rarely during the school day do we stop to think about the countless individuals who work tirelessly to foster a rich educational environment. Whether it be the teacher who helps you outside of class, the security guard that compliments your shoes, the custodian who ensures a clean classroom, the cafeteria worker that keeps you satiated during lunch breaks, or the counselor that shares a smile when you can’t return the favor; there are an unimaginable amount of people linked to your success. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to individually thank every person who has crafted an unforgettable high school experience. Instead, I will share a story about a single staff member who has changed my life during the last four years.
At the beginning of sophomore year, I trudged into a News Team meeting with my older brother, after my father encouraged me to become more involved. What I did not know at the time, was that the club would transform my high school career and provide me with one of my closest friends. Mrs. Bland, the News Team sponsor and our librarian, has shaped me into the man I am today. Throughout my involvement in the club, she has helped me explore my interests, pursue my passions, and develop a unique worldview.
Beyond facilitating an environment in which I could write articles or film podcasts, Mrs. Bland gifted me something far more valuable – a friendly face always willing to talk. Not just surface level chit-chat, but vulnerable discourse about each other and the world around us. I can recall several times during 2nd period in which a simple “Good morning” developed into a rich conversation spanning the entire period. Although I cannot remember the content of all our dialogue, I always felt a sense of tranquility and appreciation afterwards, knowing that I had someone in the building I could truly be myself around. Nowhere in Mrs. Bland’s job description does it entail changing a student’s life, and yet that is what she has done for me. I will forever be grateful for her everlasting kindness and willingness to listen.
The crazy thing is that there are hundreds of people just like Mrs. Bland at our school. Individuals who go above and beyond to make even a small difference in a student’s life.
As all of you walk on graduation day and accept your diploma, I want you to think about a faculty member who has made a difference in your life and take time to express gratitude.
After you have all achieved success in your respective fields, I ask that you give back what Prairie Ridge has provided you. Reach out and help others in the community. Remember, it takes a village of unsung heroes to create such a special environment like we have enjoyed here at Prairie Ridge.