Traditions

Pathway To Possibilities

Whenever I attend a graduation and have the great pleasure of sitting in the audience, I am struck by the variety of shoes the graduates are wearing. As the students cross the stage, if you take a minute to look below the hemlines on the black and white gowns, you see it all. These celebrating students have fashioned their footwear in sporty shoes, practical shoes, dress shoes, work shoes, boots, pumps, stilettos, and even sandals. Some shoes are new, symbolizing how special this moment is for the graduate. Some are worn, almost telling the trying story of where that student has been on their educational journey. Some look comfortable, especially on those students who seem full of confidence. While other need to be broken in to aid those who are about to go onto a very different life. Moreover, the stories of their journeys are as unique as their footwear. Several students spoke during the ceremony about overcoming significant challenges to achieve their degrees. Some spoke about inspiring educators and mentors who guided them. Others told of grade-school teachers who tried to kill their aspirations—telling them they were “not college material.” Some praised the support of family and friends. Others told of finding new strengths in themselves. Their stories made you laugh and they made you cry. Most of all, they made you proud—proud of these determined students who now are on such an exciting pathway. These stories, also, made you proud to be a part of the education system we have in the United States. Yes, we have challenges in policy and practice, funding and finance; but still, the opportunity in the US is unparalleled. Because of the diversity of our educational opportunities— from public and private K-12 schools to local community colleges to state colleges and universities to small independent colleges—students from all walks of life, from disparate and diverse backgrounds, at all ages and stages, can walk on the pathway to possibility that is in the journey called education . . . in whatever shoes they like.

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