It went by fast didn’t it? Yesterday, you were just a doe-eyed freshman on the bleachers of your first football game, gawking at upperclassmen as they throw around a ball, up and down the field. And, today, you’re trying to fathom the fact that your senior prom was last week.

It’s only a matter of time now until you reach your first milestone.

To some, leaving high school might just be the fastest itch they’ll ever scratch. On the other hand, to the rest of the seniors, it definitely is a bittersweet feeling. You’ve spent four years making memories with the people around you. One day, you’re with your best friend, walking the halls of your high school that you have come to memorize like the back of your hand, and the next, you’re walking across the stage, getting ready to shake your principal’s hand, while he hands over to you your long-awaited diploma.

Whichever end of the spectrum you are on, regarding your feelings on graduating, I want you to take a couple things into consideration before you leave.

Your commencement ceremony will be the last time you are in the same building with all of your classmates. Some will go into the work force, some will serve to protect the country, and some will go to college; some will move across the country, and some will stay. Some will live long and healthy lives, and unfortunately, some will not. But the thing is, you will never hear from or see any, if not most, of these people ever again. So, take the time to really cherish these last moments you have with your classmates, whether you know them or not, because they have shared the same struggles and triumphs with you, and they may have even made lasting impact on you, directly or indirectly.

Outside high school is a big, big, world. Your graduating class makes up only 400-1,500 of 7.347 billion people. Your world for the first 18 years of your life has been so small. You haven’t done anything with your life yet – absolutely nothing compared to what you’ll soon be able to accomplish. Life is so much more than the Friday night lights and the rumors spread in girls’ bathrooms and worrying about who broke up with whom last week. Honestly, don’t be surprised if your high school relationship doesn’t work out. The only reason why you probably started dating them in the first place is because you didn’t know anybody else, and it’s just in your personality to make a commitment and try to make things work. Trust me, if things aren’t meant to be, they will fall apart, and it’s okay. Spread your wings, and fly, young one. There’s a whole lot to see and so much more to learn.

Graduating high school will not be your biggest accomplishment. Repeat this after me: graduating high school will not be your biggest accomplishment. Graduating high school will not be your biggest accomplishment because the SATs and ACTs are a piece of cake compared to the real test of reality, and getting into college is just the beginning, and no, prom is not the “greatest night of your life” (whoever made that up definitely lied, and if you don’t know this by now, I don’t know how much else I can help you). Graduating high school will not be your biggest accomplishment because the hardest thing you did in school all four years was write that last research paper in English Literature. If you do not have a specific answer for the question, “What do you want to do after high school?” as long you make it your goal to achieve something bigger than a high school diploma and make someone out of yourself, then you are on track for a better life.

You are not as ready as you think. You were protected by the walls of your own house and the walls of your high school for the majority of your life. For 18 years, you had to ask if you could go to the bathroom, and then all of a sudden, you’re expected to know what to do for the rest of your life. High school never taught us how to pay our taxes, how to change a flat tire, how health insurance works, what to look for when buying a car, or how important our credit score is and how loans can affect that, or even how to sew on a button. High school never taught us the important stuff: how to live. It doesn’t matter if you work right away, or if you go to college – you are not as ready as you think you are. Get ready for the universe to have a little fun with you. College is harder than you think, and if you are pre-med, I’m going to tell you that you will be mentally and physically drained. You will be pushed to some sort of breaking point. This isn’t to scare you, of course. This is to try and prepare you as much as I can, and this is to tell you that even though it’s going to get rough, you will always be able to overcome your challenges if you work hard enough. 

Thank the ones who helped you get to where you are today. Your parents, the rest of your family, your teachers, the school’s lunch lady, your friends, your enemies, your dog, and most importantly, yourself. Don’t ever take any of them for granted, especially the ones who stuck by your side and never left.

That diploma you hold in your hand is really just your learner’s permit for the rest of the drive through life. Remember, you don’t have to be smarter than the next person. All you have to do is be willing to work harder than the next person.You’ll have to leave the city of your comfort, and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, unfortunately. You make it there only by hard work, risk, and not quite knowing what you’re doing, but, what you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.

I want to extend my warmest congratulations to the Class of 2017. You earned your degree; now, go out there and make sure that graduating high school will not be your biggest accomplishment. Here’s to those who made it, and here’s to those who didn’t.

Sincerely yours,

Maius Bianca Lumilan Bermejo

Lamar Consolidated HS, Class of 2015 Valedictorian

“As you start your journey, the first thing you should do is throw away that store-bought map, and begin to draw your own.”


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