Fifty years ago I walked across the stage at my high school and and received a diploma. At the time, I thought everyone graduated at the time.
But last week, I was thrilled to go to a high school graduation. It wasn’t an ordinary graduation. These kids came from varied backgrounds. Some were first-generation American born; many foreign born. The one thing they had in common? They had dropped out of basic education because of myriad personal issues, which is not unique in Miami.
Somewhere along the line, however, they realized a high school diploma was important. This was something many, if not all, in their families never achieved. I was dismayed that my dear friend did not make the ceremony; but, after completing her studies she moved to Naples. Dropping out of school when she was about 13 just left her stranded out there. For five or six years she just drifted without any direction. If she had followed expectations, she would have been married off, end of story. Not to be.
No, my friend went back to school because Miami-Dade County Public Schools has a great program in which kids can get a bonafide high school diploma. Not a GED, but a high school diploma. One of her friends also laced up the shoe strings and went to night school as well. Her friend not only stayed with the program, she was the student-body speaker at the graduation.
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I was most impressed with the attention paid to a grand ceremony for young adults with more personal issues than you can shake a stick at. They took the time and made the effort, all to improve their lot in life.
I salute to all the young adults who have seen the light. Thank you Miami-Dade Public Schools for also seeing the light in coming up with a program that gives kids a second chance to enter young adulthood with skills that they might never have attained. Now, as Roxie said in her speech, “Get out there and do!”
W.F. Cunningham II,