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Graduates: Great Accomplishments are Not Reserved for Others

by Paul Muench, Director of Educational Programming

This is a special time of year when the lawn signs are up around town congratulating the graduating high-school seniors as they prepare for the next phase of their lives. I remember when I graduated forty years ago and I thought it was funny that we were getting some great advice from the graduation stage. I really could have used some of those ideas earlier in my high school days!  It seemed like it was after the fact until I realized it was for what was coming next, that is why they call it commencement. The last class that I taught at Fayetteville-Manlius High School is graduating along with the numerous students we have worked with throughout Upstate New York in my position as Director of Educational Programming. For what it’s worth,  here are my thoughts to the Class of 2023.

You are all being asked the similar question by all of your family and friends, what are you going to do with your life?  It is difficult to order food when you haven’t even seen the menu! There are so many directions that you can go in your lives that can be overwhelming. Perhaps the better question is “Who do you want to be?”. There is more to this next phase of life than simply attaining a job or career path.  As Daneli CEO Dave Casullo often teaches, we must find clarity on “What Matters” and aim our life pursuits with that in mind. You have already started on that path and are taking an important next step. Whether you are going into the job market, military, or college, you need to make sure that it aligns with your values and is leading you down the right path for you. Your road to success is unique to you and is up to you! When you recognize your strengths and aim them at what matters to you, anything can happen. You have to make it happen. 

As you move forward, keep making gains on a daily basis. Try to avoid concerns about what others are thinking about you and your journey. Your life is not a reality show starring you on TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. The actor Rob Lowe advised his own children, “don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside”. The grass will always look greener and we can take the good things in our lives for granted. Keep in mind the great lessons and advice from the important people in your lives. I have been inspired by the amazing teachers, administrators, non-profits organizations, coaches, directors and families who work with students on a daily basis. They have devoted their professional and personal lives to set you up for success. Reach out to those trusted people in your lives when you face challenges.  At the end of the day, you have to make the decisions of what you are going to follow and the path you will go down. Stay the course, but be ready to take some detours! 

Finally, strive to be a member of a community who makes a difference. Surround yourself with positive people, starting with your family and great friends. Be proud of where you live, the family you belong to, and the impact you have on those in your life. Bring optimism, character, and work ethic to the life you are creating for yourself. It is an important step to adulthood. Being an adult does not mean you get to do whatever you want, it means you have to do what you are supposed to do without being told. 

We are all so proud of you on your graduation and are excited about your future. Be a person of action. Get out of the auditorium seats and on the stage and out of the bleachers and into the game. Don’t watch life, live life! Great accomplishments are not reserved for others.  I wish you all the best of luck, although luck has nothing to do with it.

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