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Set your own course

    Dear PHS class of 2019:

Graduation Day - the day you’ve dreamed of for so long - is here. After all the studying, the tests, the football and basketball games, the drama, the break-ups and the make-ups, it’s finally here. More than 280 students will take their last walk across Dragon Stadium field Saturday during the commencement ceremony - and what a day it will be. 

A high school graduation is a particularly special moment in the lives of students and their families. Parents’ chests swell with pride as they watch their child in cap and gown receive that diploma, an accomplishment their kids have been working towards since kindergarten. 

Graduates, you have every right to bask in the moment, but on your special day remember the folks who have been in your corner supporting you every step of the way - the parents, the teachers, the administrations, and your friends.

And graduates, as you accept your diplomas, remember the world needs your energy and your unique skills and passions, and we hope as you grow into adults you choose to be kind, caring, and inclusive, because right now we need good people in this world. 

Deborah Roberts, a 1982 graduate of the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, gave the school’s commencement speech earlier this month. Roberts told UGA graduates to “look for the goodness in people, and in situations. You can’t find yourself if you aren’t able to look for and find the kindness and common ground in something else. You don’t have to agree with everyone you meet, but if you are to learn and grow you need to practice ‘radical compassion.’ Class of 2019, you are stepping into a world that can use a lot of radical compassion right now.”

Roberts said we are in challenging times filled with “tension, anxiety, polarization,” and that “people are afraid to share their thoughts for fear they are going to be misunderstood, or blamed or labeled in some negative way.”

She urged graduates to talk to people without fear, and told them that to develop compassion we need to connect with others in real ways. Step away from those devices and do some real connecting - not on Facebook - but in real life. 

“Make a point to meet people who don’t look like you or think like you,” Roberts said. “You may learn something new if you’re willing to open your eyes and open your heart.”

When you stepped on campus for the first time as freshmen you may have been nervous, anxious, and scared of what was to come, of how you would fit in and who you would hang out with. On Saturday you should realize you took that puzzle and figured it out - but the puzzle doesn’t stop there. High school is a teen-sized litmus test for the rest of your adult life - sometimes it goes well, other times it doesn’t, but you can get through the challenges, learn from them, and move on to a better life.

Even though striving for the top and those big dreams is important, the reality is most people don’t end up being CEOs or pro athletes. Most people are the I-just-want-to-live-my-simple-life-and-love-my-life kind of folks. Remember, greatness isn’t necessarily having a top job at a top company. Greatness is reaching out to friends in need. Greatness is those who go out of their way to be thoughtful when no one is looking - the unsung heroes. If there’s anything to take from your graduation ceremony, remember that to leave a legacy and to achieve greatness is not to leave piles of money or have public recognition, it’s to leave those you cross paths with a little more happiness along the way. Your time at PHS will not be remembered by grades, popularity, likes or favorites, but by relationships - the kind of person you were. These are the legacies we should leave. 

Congratulations to the Class of 2019 from the Progress staff.