Summer Commencement: My message to our graduates

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“I urge you to listen to that little voice inside, that intuition that says this is what I truly want and love to do,” Dr. Meria Carstarphen told graduates.

Tonight I was honored to address our students who completed their high school careers over the summer.  I am very proud of these students!  Below are my remarks and a few photos from the event.
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Congratulations to the Atlanta Public Schools class of 2014! You made it. You set graduation as a goal, and you have achieved it!
My name is Meria Carstarphen, and I’m honored to be your superintendent. Today is full of a lot of activity and excitement for you, so this program may be a blur to you years from now. But I hope you’ll remember what I call Dr. Cs three Cs: courage, calling and commitment. These three words have guided me throughout my life.
Some of you are the first in your families to graduate from high school. Some will be the first in your families to go on to college. As you leave us to start a job, to join the military, to attend college or to take your next big step in life, I hope you will carry with you the three Cs. What are they again?
The First C: Courage
First, courage: Your generation will have to face a “flat” world. You will need courage to thrive in the world you are about to enter. You will be vying for jobs that students around the world could easily snap up: China will soon be the #1 English-speaking country, and India has more honor students than the U.S. has students. You’re preparing for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented yet in order to solve problems that haven’t surfaced yet.  In order to make it, you will absolutely need courage.
 
Tonight, I’d like to honor your schools and you for showing the courage to persevere as students. I can’t name all of you, but I’d like to recognize each school campus and as many students as possible.
 
School/Student Recognition
·       The men of B.E.S.T Academy have made history; B.E.S.T. (as well as its sister academy) started with sixth-grade classes in 2007 and have grown a grade level every year to get to their first class of seniors in 2014. Every graduate this year can stand proudly as a lifelong, card-carrying member of the legacy class of B.E.S.T. Academy!
·       Raiders from Mays have established themselves as educators, doctors, engineers, athletes and more – and now establishing their own path are William Robinson, who’s enrolled at Atlanta Metropolitan State College; Justin Ridley, a Mays Rifle Team member, who’s headed to the Marines; and Isaiah Tookes, who will be pursuing a degree in broadcasting and graphic design at Atlanta Metropolitan State College!
·       Crim is known as a second-chance high school, and students have proved time and time again that they won’t give up. Several students will enter college during the winter quarter of 2015, and many students are holding down jobs while still pursuing their college dreams!
·       Graduates from Douglass stand firmly on the foundation set by the school’s namesake and a long list of notable alumni, who continue to give back to their school and community.
·       Three schools made The Washington Post 2014 list of America’s most challenging high schools:
o   Grady High School
o   South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice
o   North Atlanta High School
·       The legacy class of Coretta Scott King has set the bar high: 100 percent of its 2014 graduates—including all of the academy’s summer graduates—have been accepted into a college or university!
·       Jackson is a school that’s represented on the graduation roster as well. Jackson is an IB World Authorized School and an Advanced Placement Challenge School, and has an award-winning fine arts department.
·       The panthers at Therrell are on the prowl, as Gi’Marko Brooks plans to study animation and welding at Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Jeremia Green plans to attend Georgia Perimeter College, and Brandon Hinton plans to enlist in the Navy!
·       The graduates of Washington know that their school “is more than a legend; it’s a tradition,” as this year their school celebrates 90 years of history, excellence, scholarship and leadership.
·       And Carver’s campus is celebrating 10 years as a transformed campus of small schools, and their own Malcolm Hollingsworth has a plan for what he’ll accomplish in the next 10 years: “own his own clothing line, business brand, music label and cartoon series”!
Congratulations to all of our graduates from every APS high school!
 
The Second C: Calling
Next, I’d like to talk about the second of the Dr. C’s three Cs: Calling. At this very moment, as you graduate from high school, you may not have a clear idea about what you were put on this earth to do. But in the years ahead, I urge you to listen to that little voice inside, that intuition that says this is what I truly want and love to do. According to a Gallup survey, only three out of every 10 workers in America are engaged in their work. The other seven either are not connected to or actively dislike their job. Don’t be those people. As I did, find your calling and be happy!
 
Education is a calling for many people who find happiness in serving and supporting students. You’ve been surrounded by a team of professionals that helped make this day possible. Will all of the teachers, counselors, media specialists, assistant principals, academy leaders, principals and other educators please stand so that we can give you a big clap heard ‘round the world!
 
They had help—from cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, crossing guards, school secretaries, registrars, hall monitors and more. Most aren’t here tonight, but let’s still honor the people who worked behind the scenes to get you to this day. Let’s give them an air hug!
 
The Third C: Commitment
Finally, my third C is commitment. Dream big dreams, and then don’t give up trying to achieve them. At times, you will need to rely on the support of positive people around you. 
 
Think back to pre-K, elementary and middle school. Who was there with you over all those years? Your family! Students, will you stand up now and thank your families, friends and loved ones who helped you reach this graduation day. Wave to them, and blow them big kisses.
 
Now, take your seats and close your eyes. Take a mental Instagram of your family or other supporters. Keep that snapshot in your mind and remember this moment. When your dreams are most vulnerable, think of the mental Instagram you just took. Remember that you have the power to do anything you wish, and it’s okay to ask for support from your family and friends.
 
In the years ahead, demonstrate courage, answer your calling and maintain your commitment in everything you do. Enjoy this moment, everyone. You deserve it. Again, congratulations to the Atlanta Public Schools class of 2014!!! Blessings and best wishes to each of you!

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