We feel compelled at this time of year to offer sage advice to high school seniors. Graduation is a significant milestone, a time of major transition. As parents, we want to say something profound that will stick in their minds as they venture off to career, college or the military.
We think about the movie “Forrest Gump,” which marks its 20th anniversary this year, and about some of the meaningful advice in that film. Here are a few of our favorite life lessons:
“Mama always said that life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” We can’t control what happens in life; what we can control is our reaction to it. Embrace what comes your way – and the lesson in it.
“Mama says stupid is as stupid does.” It’s what you do, not what you say, that determines your character. This reminds us of another favorite quote: Actions speak louder than words.
Enjoy the little things. Forrest Gump loved ice cream, sunsets, talking to strangers, Dr. Pepper and mowing lawns. Don’t let day-to-day stressors and distractions keep you from enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
“Mama says they was magic shoes. They could take me anywhere.” Put simply: If you believe, you can achieve.
We asked some folks a little closer to home to weigh in on this question:
What one piece of advice would you give to a senior stepping off into college, career or military?
Here are their responses:
Stillwater CSD Superintendent Dr. Stanley Maziejka
“As you approach college or the workforce, never stop believing in yourself and your ability to succeed. Be assured you will always have to confront conflict and failure in life, it’s inevitable. But it will be how you respond to these challenges that will ultimately determine your success in life. Remain optimistic, learn from mistakes, and never stop giving your best at all you do. If you approach life in this manner you will have lived a life with purpose and distinction!”
Kim Laskorski, PTA Council President, Monroe-Woodbury Central School District
“Be true to yourself and follow the Golden Rule: Do onto others as you would want done onto you.”
Thomas Lester, English teacher, Niskayuna High School
“Choose what you want to do–whatever that may be–and do it well. Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Be totally present and committed to what you’re doing in the moment. And keep reading!”
Cohoes Middle School Principal Dan Martinelli
“High school graduation is a perfect time to reinvent how others perceive you. As you transition, consider working toward being the hardest working person in the room. Please note, I did not say the most successful. There is always someone better. There is a term for working the hardest, it’s called grit. You can build your grit capacity. You can’t buy it. No one can give it to you and it’s not a downloadable app. If you are walking across the stage, you have some now. Think about that. Did you struggle? I hope so. You are better for it.
Developing your grit (and I believe that this is an absolute necessity) is not supposed to be easy. Success never is. Struggles are inevitable, so embrace them. I can give you a money back guarantee that the right amount of grit will serve you. It will help you believe in the power of choices and possibilities. Hopefully, you will see for yourself that there is always a way around what seems to be an immovable force. It is up to you to find that way. You are your best resource. My best tip … find the people “in the know.” You don’t need to be the expert, but you should learn how to find them. When you find them, you need to get them to teach you (this is a different skill, both require grit).”
Poland Superintendent Laura Dutton
“Call upon resiliency; experience laughter. Resiliency is the skill that will help in moments of challenge, stress and loss, easing hardship, frustration and sadness. Laughter is the response that will help support overall well-being. Not only is there ample research to support the health benefits associated with an elevated spirit, but there is nothing like a hearty chuckle or a burst of side-splitting laughter to experience joy and share happiness with others.”
Tim Brunson, principal, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School
“Don’t be satisfied. You’ve worked hard to get to this point – continue to set goals and make progress towards your dreams.”
Tom Perillo, Superintendent, Greater Amsterdam School District
“Be fearless. Take chances and challenge yourself. Do something unexpected and you just might discover something you really love.”
And finally, some random pieces of advice we’ve occasionally turned to on our own journey:
“It doesn’t matter what you do as a career, as long as what you do matters to you.”
- Opportunity never knocks.
- Trust your instinct.
- Don’t be a follower.
- If there’s a choice, take a chance.
– Sumner Redstone
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.” – Art Linkletter
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – E.e. Cummings
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills