This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending my nephew’s eighth grade graduation. I can’t even begin to describe to you guys how proud I was of his accomplishment. You see, his academic road has not been an easy one and, as a result, reaching this milestone is even more significant. As I sat proudly in the audience, I couldn’t help thinking how this rite of passage was indicative of all of his hard work and determination.
Let me tell you a little about my nephew… He is the oldest of three siblings who are being raised by a single mother, my sister. Although she works very hard to provide her three boys with everything that they need, the reality is that she struggles to make ends meet financially. With very little help from his father, she has had to step into both the mother and the father role for her boys.
During this academic year, my nephew has struggled with bringing up some failing grades and the competition that exists in middle school to have the designer clothing and sneakers. Although my sister has taught him that material things are not important, it is a tough age and there is a lot of pressure to fit in and to be considered “cool.” Unfortunately, due to her financial difficulties, my sister has just not been able to keep up with these trends when it comes to her boys.
As a middle school teacher myself, I understand the impact that this peer pressure has on adolescents like my nephew and I suspect it had a lot to do with the decline of his grades on his report card. That is exactly why his reaching this rite of passage is so poignant, he was able to rise above his feelings of inadequacy and find his own way to the successful completion of middle school. Somewhere along the way, he realized that getting his education was more important than being considered cool or than having the latest duds.
He is now headed to high school and I hope he will continue to be fueled by his desire to succeed and to exhibit perseverance. Next year, the peer pressure will only increase and he will have to focus more than ever to keep his eyes on the proverbial prize. As a family, we will support him and remind him daily how much we love him and how proud we are of him. Hopefully that will be enough to catapult him to greatness.
Let’s Discuss: What graduations did you attend this Spring or in recent years and what obstacles did the graduates overcome on their road to graduation?
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