today marked a moment in history for a school in South Central Los Angeles. it was one of many “firsts” but a very significant one. today Augustus Hawkins High School graduated their first class of seniors into the world beyond high school. it was a proud moment, accented by much of the typical pomp and circumstance that most other high school graduations are outlined by… but there was much of it that was unique as well. for one, the 3 small schools for community action held our graduation on our very own campus. it was a homegrown event. decorations, volunteers, and all. one might not find this very unique but in the surrounding neighborhood, high schools often opt to hold graduation at more extravagant local venues like USC’s galen center or churches. and having enjoyed many former students walk the stage at such places, its needless to say that there nothing wrong with this practice, but there is a different feel for sure.
another thing that made this graduation particularly special to me personally was the set of students that commenced, ready to spread their wings and fly from our Hawk’s Nest into the future of their design. you see, this group of students represents the last of my wife’s first 6th graders. she was one of the best teachers i ever worked with professionally. she was laid off 3 years into her career. never wanting to experience that pain again, she hung up her teaching shoes for her stay at home mommy shoes. and she is equally gifted in this department. yet those shoes had her grounded today at home with our two little girls, both of whom were sick. my wife wrote her own touching facebook post about the special feeling she had for this year’s graduating class.
i had the honor of today of announcing the names of my small school’s graduates. before i did, i shared the following with these young people. many have shared more powerful words of wisdom and more enlightening ways i am sure, but i was under a time crunch… and they hopefully understand.
a message to the graduates (expanded from the 30 second, high intensity feedback mumblings on the mic today)
it is a complete honor to be standing here in front of so many smiling faces, many of which i remember first smiling at me with the curiosity of 6th graders. it has been a pleasure to watch you grow over the years into the young adults i see before me today.
i have witnessed you all handle your fair share of adviersity. from personal struggles to state induced financial crises. through all this your class has taught my own family and i a lot about RESILIENCE. i am stronger for having been a small part of your stories. and i thank you for this.
i only have 3 more lessons i’d like you to consider as you depart high school for the ever changing “real world.”
1) always wash your hands… it is the little yet preventable things that often take you out
2) never forget who you are and where you are from… it is the necessary core that will be shaken and tested but never broken if remembered
3) do good things… it is our duty unto ourselves and others.
and finally a message to my colleagues, the graduators…
today was historic. it couldn’t have gone any better. we should all be proud of the way the Schools for Community Action have inspired young people and an entire community to come together for the common purpose of nothing less than transforming the world into a better place. one block at a time. if you look back at these last two years and the 2 years prior to that… we have accomplished so much. and yet there are so many things we aim to do better, to perfect. you all inspire me. everyday. and i am grateful for your commitment to this generation’s civil rights movement. empowering and equitable public education for our children. remember today and the possibility of future days like this one when you are feeling down and defeated. remember what we are capable of when we stand together, students, educators, families, communities… great job.