This June, just like our bricks-and-mortar counterparts, virtual high schools hosted very real commencement ceremonies to celebrate the graduation of the class of 2012. Although their studies were completed online, many virtual school seniors seized the opportunity to gather with classmates, walk across the stage in cap and gown, and receive their diplomas in front of their family and friends. And while their high school years may have been a bit different, as I read the graduation speeches from various virtual school students, I realized that these teenagers have much in common with their traditional school peers nationwide.
They’ve connected with their classmates.
Elaine Beller-Obi, one of 127 graduates of South Carolina Connections Academy (SCCA), noted that without her friends, she “would’ve been lost in a sea of schoolwork.” In her graduation speech, she emphasized that “[friends at SCCA] showed me how the people who seem the most different from you can actually be more like you than you realize. … We are all different, but those differences seem to disappear in a chat box. …We have utilized every form of communication possible … [and] made real connections with people in ways that never would’ve been possible without SCCA.”
They’re optimistic about the future.
Allana Robinson, who attended Capistrano Connections Academy (CapoCA), was one of 106 virtual high school graduates in California. Her enthusiastic speech urged classmates to go for life’s gusto, saying, “No matter where you’re going after today, you’re going to go on to do great things! You may not see it now, but we’re the class of 2012—we were born for greatness.”
Michelle Ramirez, also a Connections Academy grad, reinforced the class’s optimistic views in verse, reading from her own poem, “the Road is ahead. / Do not fear or fret, / Make the right decisions, / And all would go well.”
They appreciate what they’ve learned from teachers—and parents.
Grad Anthony Russell acknowledged how much he and his virtual school classmates gained from their high school experiences. “From our many accomplishments to our unmistakable failures, we go on to prove that we have learned the necessary skills, the abilities, and creativity to make a difference; the aptitude to succeed; the work ethic to meet the needs of our fellow human beings and … go on to face the problems that have challenged society.”
His classmate Elaine Beller-Obi expressed her thanks to parents and teachers alike. “[They] have not only supported but fully encouraged us as we faced the many challenges that came with high school. Their influences and their constant presence in our lives have helped to shape us in ways beyond our scope of understanding. For this, they deserve our admiration and acknowledgment. … [They] taught me that learning can be enjoyable and … fueled my desire to never stop learning.”
They’re ready to change the world.
One of the most prevalent messages delivered by Connections Academy graduates was the desire to make a difference. Anthony Russell rallied his classmates to do their part in transforming the future. “I see the potential that each one of you possesses. I hope that you chase such potential with every fiber of your being. … I implore you, fellow seniors, to change the world for the better. I call upon this generation to search out … the greater good and chase after that which can better yourself, as well as your fellow man.”
Across the country, another Connections Academy graduate, Bridger Zadina echoed this sentiment in his own stirring speech. “Don’t wait around passively while life strides ahead. … We move on to higher education, move on to careers, move on to love and prospects of families. [The] world is moving on and going places, [and] it’s us—the people sitting here—that will take it there.”
As I’ve reflected on these heartfelt graduation speeches and on the 1,366 members of Connections Academy’s class of 2012, I’ve reached my own hopeful conclusion. With these smart, optimistic, and well-prepared young people in charge, our world’s future looks very bright indeed!
If you have an inspiring message for our virtual school graduates, please share it in the comments below.