Thursday, May 30, 2013

Congratulations, class of 2013!


On Saturday, May 25, I joined thousands of families and friends at UGA’s Stegeman Coliseum to celebrate the graduation of the most outstanding students in the state of Georgia.  I, along with all members of the Oconee County Board of Education, seized the opportunity to spend the day with the five hundred newest alumni of Oconee County Schools.  This time was, indeed, time well spent.  Laughter, tears, and joyous smiles of triumph could be seen and heard throughout the ceremonies of the day.  Students, teachers, and administrators of OCHS and NOHS arrived early and parents and friends soon followed.  Speeches were delivered challenging the class of 2013 to continue to do great things, remember their roots, and thank those who played a part in the success they are now achieving and celebrating. Hugs were prevalent and I heard the words, “I am proud of you and I love you” often.  Frankly, it was a day to remember and I am certain that those in attendance will not soon forget it.   

As an educator of nearly two decades, I have attended many high school graduations, and, in my role as a high school principal and superintendent, have shaken the hands of hundreds of students and delivered thousands of diplomas.  Yet, this rite of passage, this ritual of formal education, this moment of transformation from adolescence into adulthood never grows old.  It is a day that I look forward to each year, as do our students and teachers.  Commencement is the culmination of thirteen years of formal study, preparation, and achievement.  It embodies an educational journey that is different for each student, but maintains the same final destination.  On the day of graduation, the class of 2013 is one – celebrating together their achievements, their history, and their legacy as learners.  Yet, the day of graduation is also the end of this “oneness.”  Students will depart on vastly different journeys, with some continuing to higher education, while others join the armed services or enter the workforce.  This powerful reality is filled with powerful promise and uncharted destinations.  One of the great joys of being an educator is the ability to watch this secondary journey. 

The class of 2013 has now graduated and the individuals who were once students are now alumni of Oconee County Schools.  It is my hope that these outstanding young people experience all that life has to offer, see the limitless possibilities that stand before them, and enjoy the ride of life as much as the predetermined destination.  Based on their academic prowess, strength of character, and vision for tomorrow, I am certain that each of our graduates will do great things. 

Graduates, please remember that you always have a home in Oconee County, and friends and supporters in the educators of Oconee County Schools.  Good luck!

Please share your thoughts about graduation and stories or pictures from your student’s day with me at jbranch@oconeeschools.org.

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