I went to a friend’s graduation ceremony today. Except, it wasn’t just any graduation.
When the processional of graduates came in accompanied by bagpipes, I joked with the man next to me about how long the line was. But the graduates just kept coming. We were both waiting to take pictures of the graduate we were there to see, but the number of people passing by us trailed on. There were 200 in all. Not that big of a deal for any other high school graduation. But for this one, well, it blew my mind.
These were graduates from the Adult Learning Center. These students had left high school for a variety of reasons during their teenage years, but had returned to finish what they started.
Some were my age. Some were closer in age to my father. Most were somewhere in their twenties. All of them had run into obstacles on their way to finishing their high school education. For some it was abuse, for others addiction. For some it was an unplanned pregnancy, and for others, it may have just been a choice made with the tunnel vision of youth. Each of these graduates had made the decision to return to high school and to get their diploma. Many probably experienced opposition to the idea, maybe ridicule, and perhaps in most cases, financial hardship in fitting work in around a school schedule.
When I was in high school, it was just a part of life. I didn’t see a whole lot of value to it, except in that I was expected to get through it with reasonable grades. I had no reason to not go, so I rushed it, finishing my five years in four (back when we had 5 years of high school 😉 ). I took my diploma completely for granted though. It was a piece of paper bought with my time and with taxpayers’ money. Not worth much to me, since I didn’t have a whole lot of trouble getting one.
But the graduating class I saw today was much different than the class I graduated with. I was there to see a friend graduate, and knowing her story, I can only imagine how many other stories were represented there today.
Each graduate there today knew exactly how much that piece of paper, that diploma, is worth. It will result in better jobs, better homes, and better lives for their children.
Put in those terms, that diploma is priceless. And I got to see that knowledge in the faces of men and women today who understood just how much “priceless” really is.