Patel: What does graduation really mean? - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Patel: What does graduation really mean?

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Posted: Monday, May 26, 2014 11:30 am

Class of 2014. Fourteen doesn't have much of a ring to it, does it? Maybe it's not the number though that lacks inspiration. Maybe it's the fact that, we've been down this path before, experienced the same euphoric emotions as we do now, and had the same sense of pride and accomplishment we all currently carry in our buzzing minds. To all of you, I ask one simple question: “What does graduation really mean then?”

Graduation is often associated with diplomas, caps and gowns, and celebratory parties. But allow me to offer a different perspective on this generalized view. We've all graduated though various other academic levels, sometimes receiving an award for our accomplishments, other times walking away with more common sense than when we first began. Starting with preschool, we all graduated knowing that Playdoh was fun to play with, but not to eat. We walked away from kindergarten knowing that the opposite gender had cooties, and we completed middle school knowing that light-up shoes weren't cool anymore - it was all about those Heelys. Even at our most recent graduation, we ended our journey a little bit wiser — completion of junior high school proved that homework could indeed make it a "hard knock life."

So, what then have we learned in high school to make this graduation special? Just like any group of Red Mountain seniors, we have learned to deal with a variety of difficulties. For many of you, gearing up at seven in the morning was the hardest part of each day. For others, senioritis started in freshman year, and doing homework wasn't a top priority. But what about the things that make our class unique? As teenagers, we all know what the latest trends are. But in our four years, the words "swag" and “YOLO" were coined, Miley Cyrus' tongue became more famous than Miley herself, and pop artists finally tried to answer the age-old question — what does the fox say? As the class of 2014, we also were subjected to new technology. For those parents out there who think I'm talking about laptops, quit living in 2006. The iPhone might have made it harder for adults to work their phones, but it sure made texting in class more fun — as long as you didn't, accidently summon Siri.

We were even special in how we chose to communicate. Facebook was our sanctum, until the parent friend-request came in, followed by Twitter, where we learned that it was ok to tell the world what type of sandwich we were making.

I'm not here to tell you how graduation should be defined. But I do think it signifies a major change in you and the world around us. While high school has shaped us as capable students, it has also prepared us to cope with culture's rapid changes. Red Mountain has prepared us for the real world with lifelong friendships and the ability to communicate with a wide variety of people. If there is anything I have taken from this school, it is how to be more social, and how to balance that with academic success. I certainly could not have achieved that balance without all of my peers and teachers who sit before me tonight.

If there's anything that you have all proven throughout the last four years, it is this: it is not about where you go, but what you make of the journey. I have full confidence that each and every one of you will make your mark on the world, whether it is big or small. And so, at this point, I'd like to give you all my congratulations on yet another important graduation in your life. But first … let me take a selfie.

Congratulations, Red Mountain Class of 2014. Thank you.

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