Last week I travelled to New York City to witness my daughter receiving her master’s degree from New York University. The night before the ceremony, the majestic Empire State Building was all lit up with purple and white lights, NYU’s colors.
We walked to the university campus and grounds surrounding the university. We sat in the park and we discussed the upcoming graduation, what a journey it has been and what might be next. I felt great pride that my daughter would receive her master’s degree from such a fine university and in her last semester of college finishing with a 4.0 grade point average.
The day of the graduation, people arrived in taxi cabs, limousines, bicycles and on foot. Parents snapped pictures around the cascading water fountain in front of Lincoln Center where the graduation would take place. The graduates kept arriving in their dark purple gowns and formed little purple pods across Lincoln Centers ‘grounds.
Classmates found each other for final hugs and final goodbyes. The day included many tears and much laughter and many profound and heartfelt words from professors, alumni and students.
As I jostled about on the subway trip back, I considered the six years that my daughter, our family, has committed to arriving at this day. I can still remember her first day of school, her new clothes and new backpack, her expectant smile and her eagerness to have it all begin.
My daughter, like most people who are successful, have enjoyed the support and wisdom of many helping and teaching adults and classmates along the way. There have been many fine teachers within the school community and also those on the outside of school. I recalled some of those very special people, a Girl Scout leader who did amazing and inspiring things, like scuba diving in a pool that was sixty feet deep or snow camping during winter.
These events, and many others, helped my daughter to think big even if she was just a little girl from a very small town.
Her grandmother taught her many things about life and about family but not how to speak French, though she spoke it fluently. “You are an American, you speak English,” she would say. A close friend became a beloved surrogate uncle and showed her the “other world” of big cities and helped to teach her the importance of long friendships. A wonderfully kind retired lady became her at home baby sitter and taught her the importance of patience, kindness and so much more.
While she attended graduate school she lived with a dear family friend who both supported our daughter and gave her a place to live while in graduate school. She also had many wonderful teachers in school that both taught and challenged her to do her very best whether it was playing a sport, learning a school lesson or taking part in a school or after school play. My daughter was also lucky to be part of several very special school classes where she was learning alongside of many very bright and intelligent classmates. In some very important ways, the many friends that frequently came to our house may have taught her as much as any other part of her life experience.
As her parent, I want to thank everyone who helped her to arrive at this remarkable day and there have been so many along the way. I continue to be impressed with my daughters many schoolmates from the North Country that have gone off to major universities and done very well. As so much is said about the quality of school education and how poor it is, I believe that schools have a role in educating our children; however, it will take many other adults and young people outside school to insure that our children are receiving a quality education.
I believe that it is possible to provide a quality education in the North Country and the many accomplished young people that come from here provide substantial evidence of that fact. Remember, all kids count.
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