Calarco's Corner

Hats off to the 2021 graduating class

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Educational institutions across the nation have been charged with adapting to remote learning, hybrid learning, and just simply educating their students while keeping teachers and pupils safe. Not only did the 2020 and 2021 graduates complete high school and college while acclimating to these conditions, but they are now also taking their place as adults in a country dealing with the l consequences of it all.

I want to begin by extending my sincere best wishes and congratulations to all of our local graduates on their achievements. As your success is recognized at various ceremonies, you can look back with justifiable pride — because you have worked hard to reach this day. It is now time to look forward with hopeful anticipation toward a fulfilling life. I also want to congratulate all the family and friends who are celebrating with you physically or in spirit.

We live in a world that is intensely focused on individualism. While that is not always a bad thing, the pandemic has reinforced the importance of working collaboratively for the greater good, both in crisis and in times of our collective well-being. This begs the question: how do we best foster personal growth while working for a larger organization, mission, or cause?

You must maintain your identity, quirks, personality, and non-negotiable values as you venture into this next chapter of your life. Each of us is born with unique and valuable assets that the world needs. By utilizing these parts of yourself to bring a new perspective to the spaces you will be working and learning in, you will be changing the way others see and experience the world. It may not always feel like you are moving the needle of change, but it is possible to leave a lasting impact even in the smallest moments.

I offer you this advice as you embark on your next journey: Do not be afraid to speak up, especially when your non-negotiable morals are being challenged. This can feel scary and challenging, particularly when you are in new spaces and roles. You must not underestimate how valuable these moments and contributions will be to your future and the lives of those around you.

Be open—welcome new people, learning opportunities, and different perspectives, for that is how we grow. Be compassionate—let it be your gift to an ever-changing world in need of acceptance and kindness. Be brave—your generation will be the one to carry us into the future, so do not be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.

New beginnings can be intimidating, especially as you enter a world that is still recovering from a difficult time in history. As students, you have endured so much change over the last year, but you rose to the challenge of completing your degree in the face of a global pandemic, and that means you are equipped to rise to whatever challenges the future may hold. You are strong, resilient, and adaptable, and these qualities will take you far, even in a world filled with unknowns.

Congratulations and best of luck to you as you take the first steps towards adulthood and all of its trials, joys, and opportunities to evolve and grow as individuals and members of society. I do not doubt that your generations will fundamentally change the world as we know it. Now go forth and make a difference!

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